Two sides of the Debt Default Crisis!

In response to a looming financial impasse, the U.S. Congress appears poised to approve a credit limit increase, an act that carries significant implications for both domestic and international economics. It is important to consider the reasons why this is a good thing.

The first reason why raising the credit limit is crucial lies in the catastrophic impact of a potential default. If the U.S. defaults on its debt, it would be a seismic event in global finance. The U.S. government’s debt is considered the safest investment in the world, with its repayment virtually guaranteed. If this guarantee were to be broken, the repercussions would be felt in every corner of the global economy. It would likely lead to a severe increase in borrowing costs for the U.S. government, a surge in domestic interest rates affecting everything from home mortgages to credit card rates, and possibly a severe recession or even depression.

Raising the debt ceiling allows the U.S. government to honor its obligations, from social security checks to military salaries to interest payments on the national debt. These commitments are not just about maintaining the day-to-day functions of the government, but also about the government’s promise to its citizens, servicemen and women, and creditors. The credibility of the U.S. government is at stake, and that credibility helps to stabilize both domestic and global markets.

Next, the debt ceiling increase provides the government with the financial flexibility to respond to unforeseen events such as economic downturns, natural disasters, or geopolitical crises. The government’s ability to borrow ensures it has the necessary resources to inject into the economy during a recession, aid in recovery after a disaster, or increase military spending in a crisis.

Furthermore, raising the debt ceiling helps maintain the U.S.’s standing in the international community. The U.S. dollar serves as the world’s reserve currency and a significant amount of global trade is conducted in dollars. This is largely due to faith in the U.S.’s economic stability. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would shake that faith and could potentially lead to a decline in the dollar’s standing, making imports more expensive and causing inflation.

While these reasons highlight the necessity of raising the debt limit, it’s worth exploring the counterfactual scenario. What if the U.S. did default on its debt? This proposition, though fraught with immediate dangers, could have a silver lining.

A U.S. default would certainly act as a stark wake-up call. It would underscore the severity of the nation’s debt problem, highlighting the need for structural reforms. In a post-default landscape, there would be greater impetus for lawmakers to make tough decisions on spending cuts and revenue increases, possibly leading to a more fiscally sustainable path forward.

Defaulting might also spark a broader conversation about fiscal responsibility. It would challenge the current paradigm of continually raising the debt ceiling without significant deliberations about the underlying drivers of the debt. This could encourage more robust debates about budget priorities, taxation, and spending efficiencies.

A default could theoretically initiate a shift in governmental financial practices. The shock of a default might inspire a systemic overhaul of budgeting and spending processes, leading to innovative fiscal tools and strategies for managing public debt.

Moreover, a default could provoke a reevaluation of the role of government in the economy. It might trigger discussions about the appropriate balance between government and private sector responsibilities, potentially leading to an economy that’s more resilient to public finance shocks.

However, it is crucial to note that these potential benefits of a default scenario are speculative and highly uncertain, whereas the risks and potential harm are very real. Defaulting would be a gamble with the economic wellbeing of the country and the world. Therefore, it is usually seen as a last resort, to be avoided if at all possible. The prudent course is to seek ways of achieving fiscal responsibility that do not entail

such drastic risks.

31 Mai 2023

First off:

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag meiner kleinen Schwester Trisha Doyle!

Last weekend Julie and I went back to one of our favorite places. We spent the weekend up at the top of Mt Pilatus just outside Luzern. We have been to the mountain a couple of different times, because it is one of the places that almost every visitor wants to see. We even stayed up at the top the second fall we were here, and woke up to about 8 inches of snow on the ground. No snow this time, but it was still just as magical. Now a little history:

The mountain takes its name from Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who, according to tradition, sentenced Jesus Christ to death by crucifixion. According to a local legend, Pontius Pilate’s body was thrown into a deep and remote alpine lake near the mountain, and his ghost was believed to haunt the mountain.

Long before it was named after Pilate, the mountain was steeped in ancient myth and superstition. The early inhabitants believed that the mountain was inhabited by dragons, and stories of sightings and encounters are numerous, feeding the mystique of this majestic peak. The notion of dragons living in the mountain caves was so strong that in the early 19th century, the government of Lucerne even banned ascents to prevent disturbing these legendary creatures.

The first successful recorded ascent of Pilatus was in 1585 by Jost Burgi, a Swiss clockmaker, mathematician, and astronomer. However, the mountain remained relatively inaccessible to the general public until the 19th century. That changed in 1889, with the construction of the Pilatus Railway, the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. This monumental feat of engineering transformed the mountain, making it a popular tourist destination. The railway was initially steam-powered but was converted to electric operation in 1937, making the trip up the mountain more accessible and less environmentally impactful.

Despite its relatively modest height of 2,128 meters (6,982 feet), Mount Pilatus continues to captivate visitors with its stunning views, unique history, and legendary folklore. Its craggy peaks and deep valleys remain a symbol of the natural beauty and cultural richness of Switzerland. I think the view from the eastern side of the top plateau is one of the most beautiful views in Switzerland. This part of the grounds was closed off this visit, but this is a picture from October of 2020.

There is a type of mountain goat that lives on the mountain called the Alpine Ibex. We have looked for these goats every time we have visited and never saw any until this visit. After breakfast we went for a last walk and I happened to catch some movement out of the corner of my eye, and there was a family (Mom and three kids) just hanging out on the side of the mountain having breakfast. It was a fantastic ending to a great weekend!

I also learned last weekend, that I am approaching the “GET OFF MY LAWN” phase of life. I was very irritated about part of our stay. The hotel dining room has a dress code posted. Even though we were only going for a weekend, I packed a sport coat, dress shoes, etc… Julie did the same. On Friday night, the dress code was enforced. Every man had either a sport coat or sweater, every woman was dressed equally as nice. Saturday, however, was a different story. There were only two of us in the whole restaurant with a coat. The majority of people were in jeans, t-shirts, hiking apparel, or in one case pajama bottoms and an overly large sweatshirt.

You can see by the picture I wasn’t going to the Oscars, but I did dress a little better than normal for dinner. I was very irritated that people would ignore the dress code, and even more irritated that the restaurant went ahead and sat everyone. Don’t get me wrong. If there was not a published dress code, I would not have cared one iota. Of course I also would not have brought dress shirts and a sport jacket either. 🙂

One of the things we had not had a chance to visit was the play area about 1/2 way up the mountain. When you go to the top of Pilatus you have three means of transportation. You can take the train up one side of the mountain. (It was not running last weekend.). You can hike. (If you know my son ask him about this. He did it last summer!). You can take a gondola. This was our method of travel last weekend. Anyway, at the last gondola area before the top they have a wonderful play area. There is a rope course, a great playground, a zipline style ride, and a toboggan run. I have always wanted to go on one of the toboggan runs so last weekend was my chance.

The Dragon Glider and Toboggan Run

One final video. Another thing I had not been able to finish at Pilatus was the Dragon Way. This is a short trail around, over, and through the mountain. Please ignore the heavy breathing. I am an old, overweight man! I still had fun on the train, though!

Well that was our weekend. We are getting ready to visit Austria and Hungary this next week. We are driving through Germany and Austria to Vienna. We will be spending 4 days there, and then we drive further east to Budapest where we will spend another 4 days before driving back to Switzerland.

Enjoy the pictures.

26 Mai 2023

Lake Geneva near the Lausanne Harbor

Julie and I visited Lausanne last weekend. Lausanne is the 4th largest city in Switzerland, and is best known as the Headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. The city is on the banks of Lake Geneva or Lac Léman. This caused a bit of a headache for Julie and I. She kept insisting it was Lake Geneva. I kept insisting it was Lac Léman. It turns out we were both right, but Julie was more right than I was. She had never heard the French name, and I thought the two names designated different lakes! The lake is referred to by two names due to historical and linguistic reasons.

The name “Lake Geneva” is derived from the English language and is widely used in English-speaking countries. It stems from the city of Geneva, which is located on the western end of the lake. The English name helps to differentiate the lake from other lakes that might bear the name “Geneva.”

On the other hand, the name “Lac Léman” is the French designation for the lake. The word “Léman” originates from the Latin term “Lemancus,” which was the name used for the lake during the Roman era. Over time, the name evolved into “Lacus Lemanus” in Latin and later into “Lac Léman” in French.

As for why Geneva isn’t called “Léman,” it is because “Léman” specifically refers to the lake itself, not the city. The city of Geneva has its own historical significance and identity, and it has been known by the name “Geneva” for many centuries. While the French name for the lake is “Lac Léman,” the city continues to be called Geneva in both French and English.

Therefore, the two names, Lake Geneva and Lac Léman, are used interchangeably depending on the language and context, reflecting the cultural and linguistic diversity of the region.

Lausanne was a great place to spend a long weekend. We did some hiking around town but there are also some really good museums. We toured the Olympic Museum and we

also visited the Palais De Rumine. The second actually houses multiple museums, but we concentrated on the archaeology exhibits. We were fascinated to learn about the discoveries on Mormont Hill.

One of the most significant discoveries at Mormont Hill is the presence of a Gallo-Roman sanctuary, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Excavations have uncovered numerous votive objects, including pottery fragments, bronze statuettes, and coins, suggesting that the site held religious and ceremonial importance for the local population. The highlight of this discovery is an exceptionally well-preserved stone altar, adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions, offering a glimpse into the spiritual practices of the time.

Beyond the Gallo-Roman period, Mormont Hill bears evidence of earlier human occupation. Archaeologists have unearthed remnants of Iron Age settlements and fortifications, dating back to the 5th century BCE. These findings suggest that the hill served as a strategic stronghold, providing a vantage point for observing and defending the surrounding landscape. Excavations have revealed traces of dwelling structures, storage pits, and defensive earthworks, offering valuable insights into the daily lives and societal dynamics of ancient communities in the region.

The archaeological exploration of Mormont Hill has also shed light on the hill’s natural landscape and environmental changes over time. Sediment samples, pollen analysis, and geological surveys have provided valuable data on past vegetation, climate patterns, and land use practices. These interdisciplinary investigations contribute to our understanding of the relationship between human populations and their surrounding environment throughout history.

Mormont Hill’s archaeological significance extends beyond its immediate vicinity. The discoveries made at this site have implications for our understanding of broader regional interactions during antiquity. The artifacts unearthed provide valuable evidence of trade networks, cultural exchanges, and religious practices, offering glimpses into the social, economic, and religious fabric of ancient Switzerland.

One of the most fun things we did was visit the Cathedral for the 10 PM call of the Nightwatchman. The Nightwatchman has been calling out “ALL CLEAR” from the top of the cathedral for over 600 years.

Assuming the mantle of the nightwatchman involves a deep-seated respect for tradition, an intricate understanding of Lausanne’s rich history, and an unwavering dedication to the city and its people. Regardless of the season’s temperaments, be it the chill of winter or the warmth of summer, the nightwatchman dutifully fulfills his responsibilities, highlighting the resilience inherent to this age-old tradition. There is only ONE primary Watchman. However, there are seven apprentices. Julie and I both remembered reading how the “glass ceiling in Lausanne” was finally getting some cracks because they nominated a woman for the very first time about two years ago to be an apprentice.

The nightwatchman serves not just as the city’s guardian of time, but also as a physical connection to the city’s past, embodying its historical essence. In a world increasingly driven by technology and modernization, the watchman stands as a poignant symbol of Lausanne’s commitment to its heritage, a reminder that even in the face of progress, tradition holds a timeless value and an irreplaceable place in the collective identity of a community.

The video below has the recording of the nightwatchman if you are interested.

As we were heading back home we decided to make a detour to Montreux. We had visited Montreux for a day two years ago, but we learned there was a Freddie Mercury statue in town. This is kind of fitting since another musical icon that adopted Switzerland died this week.

The relationship between Queen, Mercury, and Montreux began in 1978 when the band bought Mountain Studios. The studio was already famous, having hosted artists like Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. For Queen, it was more than just a recording space; it was a creative sanctuary. Between 1978 and 1995, Queen recorded a significant portion of their music there, including parts of their iconic albums “Jazz,” “Hot Space,” and Mercury’s final vocal performances on “Made in Heaven.”

Mercury at first hated Montreux. The small quiet town was the exact opposite of what the flamboyant front man wanted. However, Mercury eventually fell in love with Montreux’s peaceful setting, eventually making it his home in 1987. Montreux gave Mercury the tranquility and privacy he craved, away from the intense media scrutiny that came with his fame. He often described Montreux as his “own little paradise,” where he could find solitude and engage in his passions, such as painting and collecting art.

Even as his health deteriorated due to AIDS, Mercury continued to record in Mountain Studios, showing his dedication and love for music. He was discreet about his illness, and the people of Montreux respected his privacy, further deepening his affection for the city.

Mercury’s death in 1991 left a profound impact on Montreux. In 1996, a larger-than-life statue of Mercury was unveiled on the city’s lakeside, serving as a constant reminder of his connection to Montreux. Each year, fans from around the world gather at the “Freddie Mercury Montreux Memorial Day” to celebrate his life and music. The city, much like Queen’s music, is forever intertwined with the legacy of Freddie Mercury, the extraordinary musician who found peace and inspiration in its idyllic surroundings.

As I am writing this, Julie is packing for the weekend. We are heading over to Luzern. We have already stayed in the hotel on the top. of Mt Pilatus, but we had such a magical time, we decided to go do it again. This time, though, Julie has said we can go down the mountain on Saturday so I can do a summer bobsled run! This has been one of the things on my Swiss bucket list the first time I saw someone going down a mountain.

Enjoy the pictures, I will have more to say next week!

11 May 2023

It has been a pretty quiet last few weeks. Most of my time has been spent finishing up my school work. I am officially 1/2 way through the Masters Program for CyberSecurity Risk Management. I have actually enjoyed most of the school work which is very surprising to me. Even more surprising is that I am maintaining a 3.95 GPA. For those of you that may have known me 30 years ago, I hope you have someone to help you up off of the floor after reading that! 🙂 I mean I did graduate college, but I graduated with a B- average. Nope, I was NOT a good student.

I did get one nice bike ride in before the rain has come. One my Tik Tok Friends talked me into a long ride last week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the whole thing, but I was able to ride for about 80 miles before catching the train back home. We did ride through a beautiful part of Germany, and sometime soon I will be taking Julie through a drive in the Black Forest.

The first major climb wasn’t that bad. I was slow, but I got up the hill OK. The problem came in the second climb. It wasn’t that steep, but you can see it was pretty long. I made the mistake of letting my heart rate get up to about 160 and that was practically all I had left.

The last bit of the ride was great though. It was over 20 kms all downhill! I am really hoping to get stronger soon. Of it has rained every day this week, so I am getting a lot of miles in riding the basement. It just isn’t the same.

Julie and I have got our travel lists for the next few months together. We have some weekend trips planned here in Switzerland, and I just made reservations for what will be our longest drive, yet. We are going to drive to Vienna, Austria and then on to Budapest, Hungary. In addition some of our closest friends are coming for a week in July, and we are going to the Lauterbrunnen Valley here in Switzerland, then to Salzburg, Austria ending in Munich, Germany. This fall we also have another trip on the books for Munich. It will be our last chance for Octoberfest! Speaking of which we have to get busy on our outfits!!! I think we are going to try one last big trip late summer as well. We are thinking about a drive to Berlin, on to Rotterdam, and then back home. So I should have some good travel pictures to show you over the coming months.

Spring is finally coming, but it is coming slowly and as mentioned previously is very wet. However, last Saturday was a beautiful day so Julie and I decided to go see what was happening downtown.

Zurich is a very pretty city. We went for a stroll through the Old Town and along the river. We had lunch at our favorite restaurant, and then we finally went to visit the Police Station.

The Police Station is something I have wanted to see for a couple of years now. Most people don’t think of a police station as a tourist attraction, well sometimes Switzerland is a bit different! In the early 1900’s Zurich was experiencing a lot of growth; so they re-organized part of the Government offices. Including in the reorganization was closing down an orphanage and expanding the police station. After some more time Zurich decided to spruce up some of the government buildings; so they ran a contest for ideas on sprucing up some of the government offices. A man by the name of Augusto Giacometti won the contest, and he did fresco paintings on the vaulted ceilings in the entry hall of the police station. I think you will agree it does not look like your normal police station.

The entry hall is open to the public but only for a couple of hours each day. This time I was adamant that we were going to get inside. We learned that, as usual, the Swiss people are very clock conscious. We got there about 90 seconds early, and of course we were told to go back outside and wait for the right time! 🙂 I was very happy we finally got there to see the painting. It is magnificent.

The other bit of drama we had was that our ice machine broke down. Ice is something that people in the US take for granted. Here it is a bigger deal. We bought a counter top ice maker about three years ago. It is really nice having ice in our cocktails or water. 🙂 I had forgotten how expensive ice is here. A bag of ice costs 10 CHF. Of course since the bag won’t fit in the freezer, and I didn’t bring my really good cooler along, we wound up spending a large chunk of money for frozen water. At the rate we were buying ice, the new ice maker will be paid for in two weeks!

One update from our Eurowings debacle. Another week has gone by with no response. The gentleman that I ride with a lot gave me a website that will file a lawsuit against them for 30 Euros, and then they get 10% of the money. I have to decide if it is worth it, or not. I am leaning towards filing. I find it apalling that they won’t even respond.

I will talk to you soon.

US Debt Ceiling

If the debt ceiling talks fail and the US defaults on its debt, the US economy could face significant consequences. A default would undermine global confidence in the US as a borrower, leading to higher borrowing costs and a reduced ability to finance public spending. The potential chain reaction of negative events following a default may have far-reaching implications for the global economy as well.

Firstly, the default would likely cause interest rates on US Treasury bonds to rise sharply. Investors would demand higher returns to compensate for the increased risk associated with holding US government debt. This would make it more expensive for the US government to borrow money, which could lead to a vicious cycle of increasing deficits and debt. Higher interest rates would also affect private borrowing, making it more expensive for businesses and consumers to take out loans, thereby dampening investment and spending in the economy.

Secondly, a US default could trigger a sell-off in financial markets, as investors may rush to sell their US government bonds and other dollar-denominated assets. This could result in a sharp drop in asset prices, causing severe losses for investors and potentially leading to financial instability. The global nature of financial markets means that the impact of such a sell-off would not be limited to the US, but would likely spill over into other economies as well.

Thirdly, the US dollar could lose its status as the world’s reserve currency if the US defaults on its debt. The dollar’s role as the primary global reserve currency is based on the perception of the US as a safe and stable investment destination, and a default would call this perception into question. A decline in the dollar’s status could lead to a decrease in demand for US dollars and dollar-denominated assets, causing the dollar to depreciate relative to other currencies. This would increase the cost of imports for American consumers, leading to higher inflation, and potentially eroding the purchasing power of American households.

Fourthly, the US default could lead to a loss of confidence in the US government’s ability to meet its financial obligations. This could result in a decline in both domestic and international investment in the US, as investors may become wary of investing in a country that has defaulted on its debt. Reduced investment would likely translate to slower economic growth, fewer job opportunities, and reduced government revenues, which could in turn exacerbate fiscal problems and lead to further austerity measures.

Fifthly, the US default could have serious implications for the global economy. As the world’s largest economy, the US plays a central role in the global financial system, and a default would likely result in significant turbulence in international markets. This could lead to reduced trade and investment flows between countries, as well as heightened financial market volatility. As a result, the global economy could experience a slowdown or even a recession, with particularly severe consequences for countries that are heavily reliant on trade with the US or on the stability of the dollar.

Sixthly, the failure of debt ceiling talks and the resulting default could also lead to political repercussions within the US. The blame for the crisis would likely be assigned to the political party or parties responsible for the breakdown in negotiations, potentially leading to a loss of popular support and a shift in the balance of power in the government. This could result in greater political polarization and instability, making it more difficult for the government to address the country’s fiscal problems and implement policies to support economic growth.

Seventhly, the impact of a US default on its debt would likely extend beyond the financial and economic spheres, and could have consequences for the country’s geopolitical standing. The US has long been a global superpower, with its economic strength underpinning its diplomatic and military influence. A default could weaken the US’s position in the international arena, potentially leading to a shift in the global balance of power and a decrease in the country’s ability to project influence and shape international policies. As other nations may view the US as less economically and politically stable, they could begin to question its leadership on global issues, from climate change to international security. This could create opportunities for rival powers, such as China and Russia, to expand their influence in various regions and challenge the existing global order. Consequently, the US’s ability to maintain and advance its strategic interests around the world might be significantly compromised, contributing to a more unpredictable and complex geopolitical landscape.

In conclusion, a failure of debt ceiling talks and a subsequent US default on its debt would have profound and far-reaching consequences for the US economy and the global financial system. The immediate impacts, such as higher borrowing costs and financial market instability, could create a cascade of negative events that would hinder economic growth and disrupt the lives of millions of Americans. Moreover, the repercussions would not be confined to the United States, as the ripple effects would be felt throughout the global economy, potentially leading to reduced trade, investment, and economic growth worldwide.

Furthermore, the US’s geopolitical standing and influence could be diminished as a result of a default, potentially shifting the global balance of power and creating a more uncertain international environment. The political fallout within the US would likely exacerbate existing divisions and make it more challenging for the government to address the fiscal problems and implement policies to support economic growth.

Ultimately, the failure of debt ceiling talks and a US default on its debt would be an unprecedented and dangerous event, with the potential to cause lasting damage to the US economy and the global financial system. It is essential for policymakers to recognize the gravity of the situation and work towards a resolution that prevents a default, safeguards the US’s reputation as a reliable borrower, and preserves the country’s economic strength and global influence.

Airline Problems

Two weeks ago I had a very frustrating trip from Zurich, CH to Ft Myers, FL. I came across an article this morning talking about a report to Congress about the number of flight cancellations in the last few years. I copied the following prompt and fed it into the AI:  

The GAO said weather was the leading cause of cancellations in the two years before the pandemic, but the percentage of airline-caused cancellations began increasing in early 2021. From October through December 2021, airlines caused 60% or more of cancellations — higher that at any time in 2018 or 2019.

Here is the AI report:

The airline industry has always faced numerous challenges, from competition to regulations, and weather disruptions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a new challenge with significant flight cancellations, and airlines are responsible for the majority of them. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that weather was the leading cause of flight cancellations in the two years before the pandemic. As the pandemic worsened, low demand caused airlines to cancel numerous flights. However, the percentage of airline-caused cancellations increased in early 2021, and from October through December 2021, airlines were responsible for 60% or more of flight cancellations, higher than any time in 2018 or 2019.

The high percentage of airline-caused flight cancellations is the result of several factors. One of these is the significant cuts in the airline workforce, leading to staffing shortages, making it difficult for airlines to maintain their schedules, and resulting in numerous cancellations. There are also supply chain disruptions due to shortages of aircraft parts and maintenance services. This has made it difficult for airlines to keep their fleets in good working condition, leading to mechanical issues that have resulted in flight cancellations.

A surge in demand has put pressure on airlines to maintain their schedules, resulting in a higher number of flight cancellations when things don’t go according to plan. Airlines have been struggling with their computer systems, which have struggled to cope with the volume of flight changes and cancellations. Finally, airlines have been forced to cut costs wherever possible, including in areas such as maintenance, staffing, and customer service, leading to a higher number of flight cancellations and delays.

One solution to the high percentage of airline-caused cancellations is for airlines to invest in their workforce, infrastructure, and communication with passengers. Investing in these areas can reduce the number of cancellations caused by factors airlines can control. AI is a powerful tool to assist airlines in these efforts, providing predictive maintenance capabilities, optimizing flight schedules, and assisting with customer service and financial management. To fully realize the benefits of AI, airlines need to invest in the necessary infrastructure and talent. By doing so, airlines can improve their operational efficiency, reduce the number of flight cancellations and delays, and provide a better customer experience. Ultimately, investing in these areas will not only benefit airlines but also the entire travel industry as we work together to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Investing in the workforce involves implementing various initiatives to attract and retain skilled workers. Airlines can offer training and development programs that improve employees’ skills and knowledge, competitive compensation packages that attract and retain skilled workers, flexible scheduling options that accommodate personal and family responsibilities, and a culture of employee engagement that fosters a sense of ownership and accountability among employees.

Investing in infrastructure involves building data analytics capabilities, implementing the necessary software and hardware, and hiring data scientists and other professionals who can design and implement AI algorithms. This includes providing predictive maintenance capabilities that can help prevent mechanical issues that result in flight cancellations and delays, optimizing flight schedules to reduce the likelihood of cancellations and delays, and providing virtual assistants and predictive analytics capabilities that improve customer service and financial management.

Investing in communication involves providing passengers with timely and accurate information about flight status, rebooking passengers efficiently in the event of cancellations and delays, and investing in customer service training for staff to improve customer experience.

Investing in infrastructure also involves leveraging the power of AI to assist airlines in managing their computer systems. AI algorithms can be used to analyze data from aircraft sensors and maintenance records, predicting when components are likely to fail, allowing airlines to schedule maintenance before a failure occurs. This can help prevent mechanical issues that can result in flight cancellations and delays.

In addition, AI can optimize flight schedules by analyzing flight data, weather patterns, and other factors, reducing the likelihood of flight cancellations and delays due to factors such as crew availability or weather conditions. This can lead to more reliable schedules, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

AI can also assist with customer service by providing chatbots and virtual assistants that can handle routine customer queries and provide real-time updates on flight status. This can free up customer service representatives to handle more complex queries and provide a better customer experience.

Finally, AI can assist airlines with managing their finances by providing predictive analytics capabilities. AI algorithms can analyze financial data, market trends, and other factors to provide insights into future revenue and costs, allowing airlines to make more informed decisions about pricing, capacity planning, and other business decisions.

In conclusion, the high percentage of airline-caused flight cancellations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for airlines to take proactive steps to address the underlying issues. While weather remains an unpredictable factor, airlines can invest in their workforce, infrastructure, and communication with passengers to reduce the number of cancellations caused by factors they can control. AI can be a powerful tool to assist airlines in these efforts by providing predictive maintenance capabilities, optimizing flight schedules, and assisting with customer service and financial management. However, to fully realize the benefits of AI, airlines need to invest in the necessary infrastructure and talent. By doing so, airlines can improve their operational efficiency, reduce the number of flight cancellations and delays, and provide a better customer experience. Ultimately, investing in these areas will not only benefit airlines but also the entire travel industry as we work together to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

A Shooting in Texas

In the small, tight-knit community of Pine Grove, Texas, a horrific act of gun violence shattered the lives of many when a seemingly ordinary man, fueled by an incomprehensible rage, took up an assault-style rifle and mercilessly gunned down five of his unsuspecting neighbors. The tranquility that once pervaded the idyllic town was abruptly replaced with an overwhelming sense of anguish and disbelief, as family, friends, and residents grappled with the senseless loss of life. The tragedy, yet another stark reminder of the dangers posed by such high-powered weaponry, ignited a fierce debate across the nation about the accessibility and regulation of firearms, forcing a reexamination of the very values that underpin the American identity.

In the early 2000s, the United States experienced a significant shift in its gun control policies as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which had been in effect since 1994, expired in September 2004. This development led to an increase in the availability and use of assault-style rifles, particularly in states with relaxed gun control laws such as Texas. Since the ban was lifted, Texas has faced a series of gun-related incidents involving assault-style rifles, leading to questions about the impact of these weapons on public safety and the need for stricter gun control measures.

One of the most notable incidents occurred in November 2009, when a gunman opened fire at the Fort Hood military base, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30 others. The attacker, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, used a semi-automatic handgun as well as an assault-style rifle during the massacre. The tragedy brought the issue of gun violence involving military-style weapons to the forefront of national conversations, particularly as it pertained to the role of mental health in mass shootings.

Another significant event took place in 2012 when a man clad in tactical gear stormed a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. Although this tragedy occurred outside of Texas, it had a profound impact on the ongoing debate over gun control within the state. The shooter used multiple firearms, including an assault-style rifle equipped with a high-capacity magazine. This event led to renewed calls for stricter gun control measures, including a reinstatement of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.

Despite the growing concerns about assault-style rifles, Texas continued to maintain relatively lax gun control laws. In 2016, the state implemented open carry legislation, allowing licensed individuals to openly carry handguns in public places. This change further fueled the debate over the accessibility of firearms and their role in public safety.

The issue of assault-style rifles in Texas gained renewed attention in 2017 following the Sutherland Springs church shooting, in which a gunman killed 26 people and injured 20 others during a Sunday service. The shooter, who had a history of domestic violence, used an AR-15-style rifle in the attack. This tragedy led to increased scrutiny of the background check system and the potential need for more stringent regulations on firearm sales.

In August 2019, another mass shooting in Texas garnered national attention when a gunman killed 22 people and injured 24 others at a Walmart in El Paso. The attacker, who was motivated by anti-immigrant sentiment, used an AK-47-style rifle in the massacre. The El Paso shooting, along with another mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that occurred just hours later, prompted renewed calls for gun control reform, including the need to address the role of assault-style rifles in gun violence.

In response to the increasing number of mass shootings involving assault-style rifles, some lawmakers and gun control advocates in Texas and across the nation have called for a reinstatement of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban or similar legislation at the state level. These proposals have faced opposition from gun rights advocates, who argue that such measures infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and do little to address the root causes of gun violence.

Despite the contentious nature of the gun control debate, some progress has been made in recent years. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in 2018, several states, including Florida and Vermont, enacted legislation to ban or restrict the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. However, Texas has yet to implement similar measures.

In addition to legislative efforts, grassroots organizations have emerged in response to the growing concern over gun violence involving assault-style rifles. Groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and March for Our Lives have been instrumental in raising awareness and advocating for policy changes.

The debate over gun control has been a contentious issue in the United States for decades, with proponents arguing that stricter regulations would lead to a reduction in gun violence, while opponents contend that these measures infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. With some states opting to loosen firearm regulations while others maintain or tighten existing laws, a comparison of gun violence trends in these contrasting environments can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of different policy approaches.

States with Loosened Firearm Regulations:

States like Texas, Arizona, and Missouri have adopted more permissive gun control policies in recent years. These states have implemented laws such as “constitutional carry,” which allows residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit, and “stand your ground” legislation, which expands the legal use of deadly force in self-defense situations. Proponents of these policies argue that they empower law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and deter crime.

However, studies have shown that states with more permissive gun laws often experience higher rates of gun violence. For example, a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that states with weaker gun laws had higher rates of firearm homicides than those with stronger regulations. Another study conducted by the Violence Policy Center in 2019 reported that states with more permissive gun laws had higher rates of gun-related deaths.

Texas, in particular, has faced a series of high-profile mass shootings in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs church shooting and the El Paso Walmart shooting, both of which involved assault-style rifles. These incidents have raised questions about the impact of lax gun laws on public safety and the need for more stringent firearm regulations.

States with Stricter Firearm Regulations:

In contrast, states like California, New York, and Connecticut have pursued stricter gun control measures, such as implementing universal background checks, restricting the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and implementing “red flag” laws, which allow authorities to temporarily remove firearms from individuals deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

Research has shown that states with stricter gun laws tend to have lower rates of gun violence. According to a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, states with stricter firearm regulations experienced lower rates of firearm-related deaths between 2007 and 2010. Another study conducted by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in 2019 found that states with stronger gun laws had lower rates of gun deaths, including homicides and suicides.

However, it is important to note that the relationship between gun control policies and gun violence is complex and can be influenced by various factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, cultural attitudes, and the prevalence of firearms. Moreover, while states with stricter gun laws generally experience lower rates of gun violence, high-profile mass shootings have still occurred in these states, such as the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut and the 2018 Thousand Oaks shooting in California.

Comparative Analysis:

A comparison of gun violence trends in states with loosened firearm regulations and those with stricter laws suggests that stricter gun control measures may be effective in reducing gun-related deaths. This is supported by research indicating that states with more stringent firearm regulations tend to have lower rates of gun violence.

However, it is crucial to recognize that gun control policies alone may not fully address the complex issue of gun violence. Factors such as mental health, poverty, and education also play a significant role in shaping the dynamics of gun violence. As such, a comprehensive approach that combines sensible gun control measures with efforts to address the root causes of gun violence is essential for reducing firearm-related deaths.

Additionally, the effectiveness of gun control measures is often limited by the ease with which firearms can be transported across state lines. For example, firearms purchased in states with lax gun laws can be easily brought into states with stricter regulations, undermining the efforts to curb gun violence within those jurisdictions. This “iron pipeline” phenomenon highlights the need for a more coordinated and comprehensive national strategy to reduce gun-related deaths. Such a strategy should not only focus on sensible gun control measures, such as universal background checks and restrictions on high-capacity magazines and assault-style rifles, but also address the socioeconomic and mental health factors that contribute to gun violence.

In conclusion, the lifting of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in the early 2000s and the subsequent increase in the availability and use of assault-style rifles have had a profound impact on gun violence in states like Texas. High-profile mass shootings involving these weapons have ignited fierce debates about the need for stricter gun control measures, particularly concerning the regulation of military-style firearms. While some states have taken steps to implement tighter restrictions on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, Texas has maintained relatively lax gun control laws. The ongoing debate over the role of these weapons in gun violence highlights the complexity of the issue and the need for a comprehensive approach that balances the rights of gun owners with public safety concerns.

Comparing states with loosened firearm regulations to those with stricter policies reveals a general trend: states with more stringent gun control measures tend to experience lower rates of gun violence. However, it is crucial to recognize that the relationship between gun control policies and gun violence is multifaceted, influenced by factors such as socioeconomic conditions, cultural attitudes, and the prevalence of firearms. Addressing the issue of gun violence in the United States requires a comprehensive approach that combines sensible gun control measures with efforts to tackle the root causes of gun violence. Furthermore, the effectiveness of gun control measures is often limited by the ease with which firearms can be transported across state lines, emphasizing the need for a more coordinated national strategy to reduce gun-related deaths.

Why an AI Blog?

A few years ago I moved out of the USA so I could help my wife accomplish a work goal that she established way back in the 80’s when we were both students. I have spent the last couple of years being a “Hausmann” meaning that my one and only job was taking care of our apartment. This is the second time in my life I have done that job. The first time, though, we had two children under the age of five; so the experience was a little different.  

One thing that has been the same, is that I was also a student while I was taking care of my family. The first time I was studying Management Information Systems. I had decided that when I started working again, I needed to make a career change. I then spent almost 18 years running a network, and eventually the IT department. This time around I am working on a Masters Degree in Cyber Security.  

With the rise of artificial intelligence and the sudden appearance of ChatGPT and similar programs I have decided I wanted to run a little experiment. I actually got the idea from someone else here on Substack. Jonathon V Last wrote a wonderful article titled: AI Is Eating the World. Mr Last thank you for the idea, I really have enjoyed following you the last few years. 

I am going to let AI write an article a couple of times per week on current events. I am interested to see how it progresses based on how I progress with the prompts. I will pose a question based on what I think is the top news story of that day. I will then follow up with two more prompts based on the original writing, and ask the AI to write a conclusion to what it wrote. I will not do any editing to what the AI system writes. I will simply copy and paste into the format of an article. 

I am really looking forward to how this might change over time. Please feel free to leave me ideas on things you like to hear about from the AI world. 

26 April, 2023 or Eurowings Debacle

I need to preface this story that while I don’t think I will ever take another Eurowings flight again, it has nothing to do with the personnel we met face to face. All of the staff on the flight were great. The issue I have with Eurowings is the headache of dealing with things afterward.

So we were scheduled to fly out of Zurich on Friday 31 March. We have flown numerous times with other Lufthansa subsidiaries, but this was to be our first time on a Eurowings flight. Our itinerary had us flying from Zurich to Frankfurt and then straight to Ft Myers, Florida. This is not much different than our usual trips home. We always have at least one stop somewhere. There are no direct flights from Zurich to any of the cities in the US we visit.

Friday morning is a little cloudy, but there is no serious weather detected, Julie and I have learned we like to get to the airport early. We get through the checkin and security, and would rather sit in the lounge and have a drink or three than have to worry about making our flight on time. We knew this first leg would be easier than usual because we did not have to worry about going through passport control in Zurich. We breezed through the security process and had plenty of time to go into the lounge and have some breakfast and a bloody mary. Once seated we see that our flight is delayed about 30 minutes. This should not be a problem because we have a 90 minute layover in Frankfurt.

We got to the gate where we had the unpleasant surprise to see we were now delayed about 50 minutes. This started a little worry to settle in. However, at the appointed time we board a bus to drive out to the plane. We wind up sitting on the bus for another 20 minutes. It was at this point we knew it was going to be close. The pilot finally starts to taxi, and he makes the announcement that there are seven planes in front of us. We taxi on to the runway, and something happened I have not experienced. The pilot changes the throttle from takeoff to idle. We don’t know what is happening, and after about 5 minutes the pilot gets on the PA and announces that due to a fast moving storm cell he had to hold in place as they were afraid of wind sheer. I would rather be safe and late than really late and in a crash so…….

After sitting another few minutes, the pilot announces that we have to taxi down the runway and get back in the starting position, but the good news is that the airport will hold all flights behind us in place; so we do not have to get back in the queue. At this point Julie and I resigned ourselves to having to spend the night in the Frankfurt Airport, or possibly we would find a hotel nearby so we could get some sleep. The flight eventually took off.

When we landed in Frankfurt I turned back on my cell phone, to see if there were any other Eurowings, or since they are owned by Lufthansa the possibility of another flight going out that day. I was happy to see that our flight was delayed; so there was still a glimmer of hope we could make the flight.

On a side note: You really see some of the worst in people as they are trying to get off a flight. We were in row three; so very near the front of the plane. The number of people that were rushing from the back and trying to cut in front of everyone was ludicruous. After Julie was almost knocked off her feet, she finally was able to get into the aisle where all of these people kept loudly insisting that their next flight was more important than ours. The amazing thing is that NONE of these people were Americans, because it is usually us causing the scene. What I found hilarious, though, was the person speaking about how rude Julie and I were being not letting them go around us. Julie did shut them up when she simply said “I have a flight that is supposed to leave in thirty minutes as well. Why is your flight more important than mine?”

We had never been in the Frankfurt airport before so we stopped to ask the first person from Eurowings what gate we needed to get to. Unfortunately, they were absolutely no help, and refused to look on their computer to tell us. There were absolutely no departure boards around; so we figured we would start going to the lower numbers, because we knew we had to get off that concourse as we had not gone through border control yet. We ran down a couple of hundred meters before we found a board. We learned we needed to go to another concourse, but there was no map; so we had no clue how far it was. We started jogging again. After about 10 minutes of running we finally got to passport control. Julie of course had her purse. I had kept my passport in my pocket, but put my wallet in my backpack.

The border agent explained that I had no entry stamp in my passport; so they couldn’t let me leave. I explained that I lived in Switzerland, and there was no entry stamp because it was a brand new passport. Well, once I said that I had to prove my Swiss Residency. So I dug through my backpack until I found my wallet. By this time Julie was through, and she said she was going ahead to see if she could get them to hold the flight. I finally get through the border, and start running again. I think it was another 1/2 mile before we came to security, as soon as I started emptying my pockets I realized, “I don’t have my wallet!” I breezed through security, and started rooting through my backpack. Julie came over and said the flight was delayed another 20 minutes, but still no wallet. I realized where it was; so I grabbed my passport, cellphones and told Julie I will be back in 15 minutes. I took off running again!

I got back to the international side of the customs desk, but I knew I couldn’t just walk through; or I would get in trouble. Right then two police officers walk by. Now mind you; I just got done running as hard as I could for 1/2 mile; so I am out of breath, and trying to remember the right words to get the officer to help me. He took pity on me after about the third pant and fourth word, with “I speak English I can help you.” I explained what happened, and he took me through the door. Sure enough, there was my wallet sitting right in front of the window. I quickly gave my thanks and took off running once again!

I make it back to security, and the guard says “I have been looking for you. Let’s get you through here really fast.” I emptied my pockets and went through security again. This is where I learned some of the security people are little sadists. I sat there for about 90 seconds waiting for my stuff to come out of the x-ray machine. The only thing in the machine was my belt, wallet, passport, and phone. After waiting, one of the Eurowings employees came and told the security guard to send my stuff through, they are holding the plane just for me.


We got to our seat, and the flight attendant brought us some water, because we were both sweating. However, we still were not moving anywhere. In fact, there was quite the meeting going on about two rows in front of us. It turned out that Eurowings made a mistake as to the number of seats in business class. They upgraded five people from econ