Thursday, December 28, 2006


I'm holed up in Arizona in the desert working on a project. My wife, who was here over Christmas, had to fly home today, with a connection through Houston.

On several occasions, I've mentioned the world's-most-irritating airport-terminal announcement, which so far as I know is unique to the Houston George Bush Intergalactic Airport (as some pilots call it). The announcement features that woman whose voice sounds like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, warning over and over again that "jokes or inappropriate comments about security may result in your arrest."

The world's-most-irritating airport terminal announcement has now been revised, I am informed by my wife. It now warns instead that "impertinent comments" may result in your arrest.

Cue the "Twilight Zone" music again. "Impertinent" was exactly what the Brazil defense minister, Wonderful Waldir Pires, accused me of being on several occasions. That was because I said the old gentleman was delusional for accusing the two American pilots of the Legacy 600 business jet of performing "stunt maneuvers" and aerial tricks in the sky before the Legacy and the Gol Airlines 737 collided over the Amazon on Sept. 29, with the loss of 154 lives. Having actually been a passenger on the Legacy, calmly working on my laptop until the crash, I felt I had some personal authority in attesting to the fact that the plane was flying in an utterly normal manner, and not doing loop-d-loops, which I would have tended to notice. But Wonderful Waldir had his story, and he stuck to it even after undisputed facts finally caught up with the ridicule.

Meanwhile, Brazilian civil aviation, which he runs as defense minister, was going to hell as air-traffic controllers began a months' long protest that caused continuing air-travel chaos -- by way of warning the authorities not to blame them for a horrendous crash that was clearly the fault of Brazil's atrociously run air traffic control system.

In other constabulary news, this time back in Brazil itself, anyone who still has plans to take a festive year-end holiday in Brazil despite the months' long airport chaos and the routine street crime, including the growing number of incidents of airport shuttles being hijacked and the tourists inside robbed by gun-toting thugs, take note:

According to the New York Times online today, in a story datelined Rio de Janeiro, "Heavily armed drug gangs unleased a wave of attacks on police stations and public roadways here early today, and at least 18 people were killed in the confrontations. ... The attacks coincided with the start of the summer tourist season here ..."

And what are the police doing (besides forming militias to shake down slum dwellers, but that's another story)? No, the police are spending an awful lot of time desperately trying to cook up specious criminal charges against two innocent and courageous American pilots.


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