Posts tagged ‘Air Force’

If Parks Stayed Open, No One Would Notice The Government Shutdown

For several days now I have been highlighting article after article (here and here) where the only service downside of the government shutdown anyone can come up with is the closure of parks.  Here is another example, from the AP entitled "Lawmakers feeling heat from Government Shutdown".  Its all parks:

Some 800,000 federal workers deemed nonessential were staying home again Wednesday in the first partial shutdown since the winter of 1995-96.

Across the nation, America roped off its most hallowed symbols: the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the Statue of Liberty in New York, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, the Washington Monument.

Its natural wonders — the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Smoky Mountains and more — put up “Closed” signs and shooed campers away.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said he was getting pleas from businesses that rely on tourists. “The restaurants, the hotels, the grocery stores, the gasoline stations, they’re all very devastated with the closing of the parks,” he said.

The far-flung effects reached France, where tourists were barred from the U.S. cemetery overlooking the D-Day beaches at Normandy. Twenty-four military cemeteries abroad have been closed.

Only 22,000 of those 800,000 run parks.  Apparently none of the others do anything we will miss.  Oh, they come up with one new one:

Even fall football is in jeopardy. The Defense Department said it wasn’t clear that service academies would be able to participate in sports, putting Saturday’s Army vs. Boston College and Air Force vs. Navy football games on hold, with a decision to be made Thursday.

Eek!  I joke about this but I fear that today this is going to bite me right in the butt.  Our company operates campgrounds on land we lease from the US Forest Service.  Since we pay all expenses of the operation, take no government money, and employ no government workers, we have never closed in a shutdown and the US Forest Service confirmed at noon yesterday we would not have to close this time.  But apparently someone above the US Forest Service somewhere in the Administration is proposing to reverse this, and illegally close us.  My guess is that they realize parks are the only thing the public misses, and so the Administration trying to see if it can close more of them, even ones that are operated privately and off the government budget.

Update:  This is very similar to what is happening in DC.  By trying to close us, the USFS is actually costing themselves more money (since we pay rent to them based on our revenues) with the only goal being to make the closure worse.  The Administration has ordered the same thing to occur in DC parks, where they are spending far more money "closing" monuments than they do just having them open all the time

Yesterday, the sight of a group of World War II veterans storming the barricaded monument built in their honor in Washington, D.C., became the buzzworthy moment from the first day of our federal shutdown.  The open-air, unmanned outdoor memorial had been barricaded to keep people from "visiting" due to the government shutdown, though there was no real (as in “non-political”) reason to have done so. Barricades certainly wouldn’t prevent vandals from busting in there at night if they wanted to. It was an absurd, petty move.

This morning, Charlie Spiering of the Washington Examiner returned to the memorial to find a gaggle of “essential” government workers there to barricade it once again. He tweeted that the employees fled after cameras started filming them working, but then came back to attach “closed” signs. A couple of them appear to be talking to the media. The barricades are apparently there, but have not been tied together and are therefore easily removed.

Shame On Executives For Flying Private Jets...

...only those of us in Congress get to fly private jets

Congress plans to spend $550 million to buy eight jets, a substantial upgrade to the fleet used by federal officials at a time when lawmakers have criticized the use of corporate jets by companies receiving taxpayer funds.

The purchases will help accommodate growing travel demand by congressional officials. The planes augment a fleet of about two dozen passenger jets maintained by the Air Force for lawmakers, administration officials and military chiefs to fly on government trips in the U.S. and abroad.

The congressional shopping list goes beyond what the Air Force had initially requested as part of its annual appropriations. The Pentagon sought to buy one Gulfstream V and one business-class equivalent of a Boeing 737 to replace aging planes. The Defense Department also asked to buy two additional 737s that were being leased.

Lawmakers in the House last week added funds to buy those planes, and plus funds to buy an additional two 737s and two Gulfstream V planes. The purchases must still be approved by the Senate. The Air Force version of the Gulfstream V each costs $66 million, according to the Department of Defense, and the 737s cost about $70 million.

Even the richest of private companies blush at the prospect of buying Gulfstream V jets, the absolute top of the line in business jet luxury.  Except, of course, for the ridiculously oversized Boeing Business Jet, of which Congress appears to be buying 3 (the BBJ is the business version of the 737).  I am sure there is one, but I can't think of a single Fortune 500 company, and I have worked for and with a lot of them and flown on their jets, that has even one BBJ.

I can understand why certain officials need to fly private planes just for security, but the average Congressman from Wyoming?  Why won't commercial work.  Andy why, if they must have  a private plane, wouldn't a more reasonably sized Falcon 50 or Citation work just as well?

Update: Several people have found it ironic that the White House threw a fit over $300+ million for funding of new warplanes but hasn't blinked over $500+ million to ferry Congress around in luxury.

Update #2: An example of the BBJ.  This is how you fly, right?

boeing_bbj_int1_lg

Paging Sarah Connor

Maybe I have watched too many movies, but it just does not seem like this will end well:

In its recently released "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047" report, the US Air Force details a drone that could fly over a target and then make the decision whether or not to launch an attack, all without human intervention. The Air Force says that increasingly, humans will monitor situations, rather than be deciders or participants, and that "advances in AI will enable systems to make combat decisions and act within legal and policy constraints without necessarily requiring human input."

I will eschew some obvious Terminator clips and go a little old school

The original version of this scene actually did not make the theaters because it was too violent for the time.  If you want the full gore, .  The clip begins with the theatrical release, and then it replays the whole thing with the deleted bits.

Great Report on Earmarks

The Seattle Times has done a ton of work on earmarks, and has a report here.  Nothing here will be much of a surprise for earmark critics.  This was probably my favorite bit:

Last year, Congress promised to shed light on the secretive process. But the lists of earmarks are still buried in obscure documents that are difficult to find and search. Until Congress put them online a couple of weeks ago, the House disclosure letters, linking lawmakers to companies, were thick volumes of paper kept in a cabinet in the offices of the House Appropriations Committee.

When a reporter for the Congressional Quarterly pointed out how difficult it remains to pull all the information together, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the committee that drafts the defense bill, had a quick answer: "Tough shit."

Murtha, for those who don't know, consistently leads the earmarking numbers, and came in #1 among Congressmen in reaping campaign donations from earmark recipients, bringing in over $1.6 million.  They have a database here where you can look up your Congressman (mine, John Shadegg, was one of the few with zero).  My sense is that this database is only from the military appropriation and that there are many more earmarks hidden out there in other bills, but it is a good start.  (hat tip Hit and Run)

The new, but not surprising, information for me was how Congress easily sidesteps the new disclosure rules.

After months of investigating the $459 billion 2008 defense bill, The Times found:

  • The hidden $3.5 billion included 155 earmarks, among them the most costly in the bill. Congress disclosed 2,043 earmarks worth $5 billion.
  • The House broke the new rules at least 110 times by failing to disclose who was getting earmarks, making it difficult for the public to judge whether the money is being spent wisely.
  • In at least 175 cases, senators did not list themselves in Senate records as earmark sponsors, appearing more fiscally responsible. But they told a different story to constituents back home in news releases, claiming credit for the earmarks and any new jobs.

The Times includes several irritating but entertaining stories of rent-seeking.  Take Cyberlux, for example.  What do you do when your company has sunk $50 million into a new product, has a $18 million a year burn rate, and only has $300,000 is revenues for the first six months of the year?  Why, you call your Congressman and generate revenues via earmarks, with a quick thank you in the form of company-sponsored fundraising for said representative.

And this certainly is a feel-good story for those rooting for the government to re-engineer the American auto industry:

Latrobe Specialty Steel of Latrobe, 40 miles east of Pittsburgh, makes specialty steel for aircraft parts.
In 2006, its parent company, Timken, spent $2.9 million lobbying Congress on various issues and persuaded lawmakers to ban the Defense Department from buying any products using foreign-made specialty steel. As the sole U.S. producer of certain kinds of specialty steel, Latrobe saw its orders climb. Timken then sold Latrobe to a group of investors in a $250 million deal.

But the buy-American restrictions for specialty steel caused serious problems for the Air Force, creating a 17-month lag in getting spare parts for aircraft used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In May 2007, Latrobe said it needed to expand but complained of high electric bills and publicly threatened to build a new plant in Virginia or West Virginia instead. Pennsylvania offered grants and tax credits to the company worth $1.2 million.

In Congress, lawmakers were quietly lining up a much sweeter package.

In the defense bill passed in December, someone had inserted language that ultimately directed $18.4 million for "domestic expansion of essential vacuum induction melting furnace capacity and vacuum arc remelting furnace capacity."

"Latrobe Specialty Steel is the only domestic producer of that steel," Army Lt. Gen. William Mortensen said at a hearing.

A month after the bill passed, Latrobe began a $62 million expansion in its home state.

No one in Congress has admitted sponsoring the Latrobe earmark.

One congressman's fingerprints, however, weren't so easy to conceal. Latrobe sits in the congressional district of Rep. John Murtha, a Democrat who chairs the subcommittee that drafts the defense bill and wields the most power over defense earmarks.

Latrobe's officials have given $5,000 to Murtha's re-election fund in the past two years.

Also, Murtha had talked about giving taxpayer dollars to Latrobe. "We're trying to get together to see how we can work out an increased capacity for that particular company," Murtha said at a subcommittee hearing in April 2007. "I've talked to that producer. And what I'd like to see is them put some money in, us put some money in, and reduce the time it takes to get those spare parts out."...

The company would not comment on any discussions it had with Murtha. A spokeswoman defended getting the grant, saying it had been competitively bid. Even so, she acknowledged that Latrobe is the sole U.S. producer of certain specialty steels, a requirement for getting the money.

Reality is Nuttier than the Onion

Please, someone tell me this is a hoax or an urban legend or something.  But it does appear to be a legit Reuters story (via Reason):

The U.S. military rejected a 1994 proposal to develop an "aphrodisiac" to spur homosexual activity among enemy troops but is hard at work on other less-than-lethal weapons, defense officials said on Sunday.

The idea of fostering homosexuality among the enemy figured in a declassified six-year, $7.5 million request from a laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for funding of non-lethal chemical weapon research.

I am speechless.

Scrappleface: White House to Boost Empathy Statements

via Scrappleface:

As one unnamed reporter put it, "In the hours immediately following the disaster, millions of people in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Somalia and elsewhere turned their eyes toward America to discover whether the president would rush back to Washington D.C. and empathize with their plight. But Bush stayed in Crawford and made just one official statement, as U.S. military planes surveyed the damaged area and Air Force C-130 cargo planes with humanitarian goods headed for the region. It's as if Bush thinks that action is a substitute for news conferences."

LOL.  I have always hated the empathy dance after disasters, particularly the now required visit by the President to the disaster site.  What is he going to do?  The visit to the WTC site soon after the attack on 9/11 had value because it made a statement about security that gave confidence to people that they could return to Manhattan.  Why is it necessary, though, to tour hurricane damage by helicopter?  Isn't that the experts job? 

We had a number of our operations in Florida shut down for weeks after the recent hurricanes there.  Several of my friends asked me if I was going to go visit the damage.  "What for" I asked?  The damage had been described to me, and the folks in charge there who knew the area had a good plan in place for fixing things.  If I showed up, work would have to stop for a day while everyone showed me around.  The time to go back is after it is cleaned up, when you can thank everyone for their hard work.  But of course, I didn't have to deal with the media editorializing on my heartlessness because I didn't run to Florida and sight-see the damage.