“User Fees”

By lex, on January 16th, 2012

A tax, by any other name: *

After almost 9,000 people urged the president to take damaging aviation user fees off the table, the administration on Jan. 13 offered its response: No way.

In a response to a petition ** on the White House’s “We the People” website, Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for General Government Programs Dana Hyde reaffirmed the Obama administration’s commitment to a proposed $100-per-flight fee for use of air traffic services, claiming that the fee would both “ensure that everyone is paying their fair share” and help reduce the deficit.

“We are disappointed but not surprised that the administration continues to seek a $100 user fee on general aviation flights,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Congress has repeatedly said that a GA user fee is an unacceptable method of funding the air traffic system. Pay at the pump has worked since the dawn of powered flight and it still works. The last thing we need right now is to create an expensive new bureaucracy to fix what isn’t broken.”

Mr. Fuller should know that there is no intent here to “fix” anything. The the national airspace infrastructure is in place, and  – unlike roads and highways – air routes are famously indifferent to government-funded “repairs”.  Aviators already pay at the gas pump for their privilege to fly, with those who use more paying more.

No, it takes money to own and operate an airplane, and money implies success. As a point of moral order, success should be penalized, in order to subsidize deficiency.

Having no expectation of success themselves, some people more readily vote for a share of someone else’s money.

Because of the “fair share”, and that.

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** Original link gone; changed – Ed. 

*** Original link gone; no replacement – Ed. 


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By lex, on January 16th, 2012

When our forces first went into Afghanistan, it was all about the kinetics.  A couple of years ago, the mission moved to “hearts and minds”, firepower being eschewed in favor of making nice. Then came the “Afghan surge”, which never included as many forces as the forward commanders requested, but definitely resulted in increased presence and concomitant kinetics in places the NATO coalition had never been, or where they had been too thin on the ground to effect either a tactical or strategic difference.

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Turning 50

By lex, on January 15th, 2012

For some of us, turning 50 is a time to slow down, take stock.

It just ain’t so for the Navy SEALs:

“From the Mekong Delta to the Hindu Kush, deep at sea or far into the desert, Navy SEALs have proven themselves to be tough, versatile, and successful,” said Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, Naval Special Warfare commanding officer, at a closed-to-the-public ceremony in Coronado Friday.

The force, created out of Navy underwater demolition units, started with two teams, 20 officers and 100 enlisted sailors on Jan. 1, 1962. Coronado was the location of SEAL Team One; Little Creek, Va., was home to Team Two.

Early training photos show men in swim trunks crawling under barbed wire on the beaches of the Silver Strand.

Today, the SEALs run 10 teams from a headquarters at Coronado Naval Amphibious Base and include 600 officers and 1,900 enlisted. They are still in Virginia but also at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

All SEALs do their make-or-break training at the Coronado amphibious base. It’s 21 weeks of physical and mental pain called BUD/S, for basic underwater demolition/SEAL.

In 50 years, the small force has included five Medal of Honor recipients.

The last two came posthumously from actions in 2005 and 2006 in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The Navy has since named warships after those two SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy and Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor.

Proud warriors, and proper names for warships.


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Relaxed Stability

By lex, on January 13th, 2012

Two flights yesterday, one day and one night. In the day hop, we joined with two Marine FA-18s to serve as their wingmen for the adversary presentation. Merely maintaining formation and maneuvering mildly with the much more modern fighters vividly displayed what twenty years of fighter evolution can produce. A pair of medium bypass, afterburning fan engines, a model wing with automated high lift devices and digital flight controls can do things without trying that a J-79 engine mounted on a pure delta wing cannot, or at least, cannot do easily. I was in and out of afterburner just staying in position. Once the machine gets slow – anything less than 300 knots is officially “slow” – there’s just so much wing in the breeze, so much induced drag.

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The Latest Outrage

By lex, on January 12th, 2012

Third Battalion, Second Marines is in the headlines, and not in a good way:

The U.S. Marine Corps is investigating a video that surfaced online today in which several Marines appear to urinate on the corpses of suspected Taliban fighters.

The video, which is less than a minute long, appears to show four men in uniform looking around before urinating on three dead bodies, at least one of the men chuckles as they do so.

“Have a great day, buddy,” one of the men is heard saying, apparently to a dead body.

The Marine Corps responded quickly after reports of the video surfaced, calling for a full investigation.

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Day Hop

By lex, on January 11th, 2012

I left my helmet and gloves in the bike’s panniers overnight, which I regretted a little when I put them on this morning – they were pretty cold, and I was freshly scrubbed; the combination was uncongenial. It was only ten minutes gate to gate from Port Why-me-me to Point Mugu, with a brief stop at the on-base Subway for something hot with eggs in it.

I’m only two days into this detachment, and already the Subway gag reflex is kicking in. An I were king, we’d have some proper food on base that retirees/contractors could indulge in, for to keep out wind and water.

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M/V Sunshine

By lex, on January 7th, 2012

More on the “dumbest pirates ever“:

Brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade and several Kalashnikov rifles, (the pirates) rushed alongside, threw a grappling hook and tried to lash a ladder to the Sunshine’s side. They hoped to scale the gunwales and seize the bridge.

Their plans unraveled immediately. As the Sunshine radioed for help, and tried to deter the boarding by spraying the pirates with fire hoses, the pirates were unable to board.

“Our ladder broke,” Mr. Mahmoud said.

See? Marlinspike seamanship.

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