Who’s REALLY Responsible For The JFK Airline Fiasco??

Note to airline passengers flying from overseas into the USA:  if you’re on a US flag carrier airline, the law says that you can’t be kept captive on the plane after landing for more than 3 hours without the airline incurring a huge fine of up to US$27,500 per passenger! For an aircraft carrying 200 passengers, the fine could be as much as US$5.5 million per flight!

But if you’re flying into the USA on a foreign airline such as Cathay Pacific, or British Airways, or Lufthansa, or Aero Mexico, or Air France, no such law applies.

So it seems like more than just a coincidence that after the recent blizzard in the northeast USA this week, no USA airlines arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York City from overseas was forced to hold passengers on airplanes for an extended period of time.  But passengers arriving from overseas at JFK aboard the above-mentioned foreign airlines were held hostage for as long as eleven hours.

Everyone is ducking the question about how or why the arriving US carriers were somehow favored.  The airlines, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the US Customs and Border Protection Agency were all pointing fingers at each other, blaming the other two for this “passenger imprisonment” fiasco.

All passengers arriving into the USA from foreign countries must be processed through US Customs and immigration procedures before being allowed entry into the USA beyond the US customs area.

The airlines and Port Authority have claimed that Customs officials sent their staff home early, so no one was available to process the international arrivals.  Custom denied that, claiming that their personnel were working multiple shifts to ensure adequate staffing to process arriving passengers.

Port Authority claimed the airlines allowed their flights to come in even though they didn’t have enough gates.  The airlines denied that.

The airlines claimed that the Port Authority should have done a better job of ensuring sufficient gates were available.  The Port Authority responded that they are not responsible when the airlines jam the airport with overseas arrivals.

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said, while trying to explain how and why such a thing can happen, that “There is just no place that you can dump 1,000 people in a secured area for a period of time.”

Bullshit.

JFK has one of the largest terminal-building complexes in the world.  The airport property, with its many terminals, hangers, airport vehicle, equipment storage facilities,  and maintenance facilities, etc., etc. approximates an average-sized western town.  All these structures are staffed with lots of people.  Even in the aftermath of the blizzard, the facilities had some folks present whom either never left or happily braved snow drifts in their HUMVEEs, anyway.

Additionally, both the New York National Guard and the NYPD, among others, have ways to get through any environmental mess like a blizzard cleanup.  Like helicopters, tractors, etc.

Furthermore, every large airport has vehicles with adjustable airline style stairways attached so that they can service unexpected emergencies on commercial jets.  And think about Air Force One when it lands at most airports.  A truck with an airline-style stairway pulls up to the president’s B747 so that he can get off the plane.

And finally, JFK has buses that can transport passengers in the event of a specific need.

Mix all that up, and what do you have?

At best, incompetence.  At worst…premeditation?

First, as reported by the LA Times, from the time that fines went into effect against US airlines if they delayed arriving passengers on jets longer than three hours, US airlines have had only 8 flights that were delayed longer than three hours, compared with 529 flights during the same time period before the fines were adopted.  That fact clearly demonstrates that the airlines have near-total control in this situation.

Second, that several thousand passengers were essentially abducted/imprisoned/held captive on airplanes without even the police being allowed to bring them food and other necessities, as requested in at least one case by the captain of Aero Mexico, clearly shows arrogance and insensitivity.

The airlines, the Port Authority, and even US Customs could easily have established a temporary holding area in one of the many facilities.  Security could have been provided by the NYPD and/or National Guard and/or JFK security force (or any combination thereof).  In fact, why wasn’t a similar plan formulated long before the blizzard??

Why?  Because these are foreign airlines not subject to fines, so no process exists to help them do what the US carriers have done:  Avoid these tarmac delays.  The foreign carriers just have to deal with really pissed-off customers….people that might choose Untied or American or Delta next time.

Works great for the US carriers all around, doesn’t it?

Unbridled, unregulated protectionist capitalism at work, don’t’cha know.  Sarah and her Tea Party compatriots must be SOOoo proud.

Have a GREAT 2011, everyone.  The 2012 political campaign starts NOW.  🙂

T’was the Night before Christmas…Again…

….And all through the Senate,
GOP senators were defecting, like Utah’s senator Bennett,
And joining the democrats in bipartisan fashion;
Obama’s NEW START treaty easily passed with passion.

Though GOP’s Mitch McConnell whined on CBS news,
And it was a real sight to watch him sing the blues
That the treaty is rushed, and far from perfection.
But cry as he might, he can’t stop the defection.

Just six short weeks ago, the GOP had their night,
“shellacking” the democrats in their election fight.
So “what happened since then?”, the GOP asks in vain,
“We seem to be caught in a torrential rain…”

..”Our senate republicans keep leaking away,
Giving Obama a bright, shining day,
When he should have been fretting his loss of the House,
with his tail ‘tween his legs, like a meek little mouse.”

“But instead he has wins, like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
and more help for the jobless and those gone through hell
who were 9-11 responders!”, the GOPers lament,
As their previous “Say NO!” now cannot make a dent.

The people spoke: “No more Gridlock do we want!!
All of you grow up, or else we will haunt
your reelection bids within less than two years.
So best hear this warning that’s reaching your ears:”

“Do what the people have sent you to do:
work closely TOGETHER, both they and you.
Pass legislation that’s good for us all,
Because if you don’t, we WILL make you fall!”

Meanwhile, Obama, pulling wins from defeat
his legislative agenda mostly complete,
is now off to Hawaii, family in tow,
smiling quite broadly, as he clearly does know

That the GOP, suddenly, given more rope,
hanged themselves AGAIN!  Who could have hoped
that they’d do it once more, like two short years ago?
So Obama himself is all smiles and aglow.

When GOP takes the House in early 2011,
and they feel like they died and went right straight to heaven,
The warning is clear, they must control their glee
or the cold and the damp of the street they might see…

….AGAIN…. 🙂

We, the People!! wishes everyone a great Holiday Season and a VERY prosperous 2011!!

The GOP is so Quiet…TOO Quiet…

Pop Quiz:  How many functioning political parties are there in the USA?

If you answered “two”, you’re essentially correct….but not accurate.  Yes, there are two major political parties, but inside each of them are at least three unofficial “sub-parties”.

The democratic party has these:

1.  The “Liberals, who bizarrely think they can achieve their entire agenda by stomping their feet and holding their breath until they turn blue….and fighting with everyone else;

2.  The “Centrists”, who are convinced that everyone will “see the light”, sooner or later…so they just smile and don’t explain anything; and

3.  The “Blue dogs”, who are really conservative republicans in democrat’s clothing..and no one likes them, anyway.

The republicans have their “sub-parties”, too, although they are less clearly delineated and sometimes they overlap into one another:

1.  The “Moderates”, who believe that compromise is preferable to obstructionism…to a point;

2.  The “Conservatives”, who believe that big business and corporate America (both of whom largely finance them), unbridled and unburdened by government regulation, are the cure for every known human problem and need; and

3.  The “Tea Partiers”, who believe that everyone and everything, including government, business and anyone who disagrees with them, is the problem.  Their solutions are the smallest possible government, and firearm ownership (and regular use) by everyone.  Oh, yeah, and no one should have sex (including by themselves) before marriage, everyone and everything should be Christian and Christian-based, and knowledge is optional.

Within each major party’s “sub-parties” there are, of course, disagreements and arguments.  However, most of those conflicts within the GOP are hidden from the public’s view.  And why?  Because the GOP is very well organized and tight.  They know how to control a message to make it look like the entire GOP is behind it, even if they aren’t.  They know that fighting in public fractures them and their collective influence and power.  They know that appearing strong and united gives the public confidence in them and makes them seem to be right, even when they’re wrong (which happens a LOT).

An example is when South Carolina republican senator Jim DeMint threatened to make the senate read the entire START treaty aloud in the senate to delay its debate by 12 hours. The senate republican leader, Mitch McConnell, quickly responded that the reading of the treaty was not essential.

Surely, there were back-room and/or private telephone discussions between McConnell and DeMint.  Probably even some yelling.  But from the public’s point of view, there was only End of Issue, followed by silence.

Compare that to the particularly loud and continuous public defiance of president Obama’s tax-bill compromise with the GOP by democratic liberals in the House of Representatives.

When the going gets tough, the GOP “sub-parties” go private, while the “sub-parties” in the democratic party go looney tunes.  And while the “sub-parties'” respective squabbling might be similar, the show is very, very different.  The result is that the GOP looks like a well-oiled machine, while the democrats look like kids on monkey bars.

It therefore seems too good to the be true that in these last days of congressional business before the holiday break and final session in early January, the GOP has been very quietly cooperating with the democrats to get legislation passed in congress.  After all, they could have simply continued their standard obstructionist policy of “no” until mid-January, when they take control of the House of Representatives and have 6 more seats in the senate.

But someone once said that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.  So if it is assumed that the GOP is not just being “quietly cooperative”, but is implementing a well-planned strategy for when they take over, that strategy might look something like this:

1.  Cooperate with the dems in getting last minute legislation passed.  Also, don’t criticize the dems or Obama too much right now.  Make the American people, who still don’t trust the GOP, think the party has learned its lesson and is putting the people first.  After all, no matter what is passed now, it can be modified later.

2.  Once this new “good will” is established by the GOP’s “quiet cooperation”, quietly begin the process of repealing health care reform, piece by piece.  Do it in such a way that it appears that the only concern is the good and well-being of the people, as opposed what’s good for the private health insurance industry and “big pharma“.

3.  Keep appearing “quietly cooperative” with the dems when it comes to minor compromises.  The “sub-parties” in the democratic party will go crazy, start their defiant public behaviors, and alienate the public as a result.  That will make the public turn away from them and toward you, their new-found “protectors”.

4.  Keep up the pressure on health care.  Sooner of later, you’ll achieve either partial repeal, or win the presidency in 2012…or both.  And keep smiling at the dems all the while.

Can someone PLEASE wake up the democrats??

When Barack Obama Acted Like Michael Douglas

This week president Obama negotiated a deal with the GOP to extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts to all Americans for two years.  This included tax cuts for people making more than US$250,000 a year.  That provision was part of the give-and-take of negotiations, even though Obama didn’t like it.  However, in exchange he was able to get to GOP to agree extend unemployment compensation to the chronically unemployed for another 13 months.

Obama justified the deal by stating that without it, the tax cuts were scheduled to expire on January 1, 2011 for all Americans.  The middle class and the economic recovery would have suffered the most by the tax increase.

Since the announcement of the compromise, the GOP has expressed satisfaction over the deal, primarily because they preserved the Bush tax cuts for the very rich, which Obama called their “holy grail”.  But for many democratic House of Representative members, Obama demonstrated a lack of spine, a lack of negotiating skills, and yet another appeasement to  the opposition party that has clearly stated its number one priority:  To ensure that Obama is a one-term president.  As these dems see it, their president simply caved in by agreeing to a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for everyone, including a continuation of the estate tax exemption up to US$5 million and anything over that being taxed at 35%  It was a US$1 million exemption with the rest taxed at 55% before the Bush tax cuts.

It is true that the estate tax and the length of the extension might have had some wriggle room in the negotiations.  But its also true that not raising anyone’s taxes in exchange for the GOP agreeing to a 13-month extension of unemployment compensation will keep existing money in the economy instead of going to pay taxes, or being unavailable to the economy if unemployment compensation expires on December 31st as scheduled.

Obama sees this as a “mini-stimulus” that will  be implemented if the senate passes legislation approving the tax agreement.  However, the more liberal side of the democratic party is furious with the president.  They don’t trust the obstructionist republicans, particularly after they yielded on some republican demands during the health care reform debates, only to find that the GOP still wouldn’t support health care reform, anyway.

They also feel that if Obama had drawn a line in the sand, as it were, and forced the republicans to implement their threat to block all other legislation from reaching a vote in the senate until they got their tax cut extension for the wealthy, taxes would have risen for everyone as of January 1st.  The USA’s middle class, which is 98% of the population, would have then blamed the republicans for not least allowing the tax cuts to continue for them, so these folks claim.

Unfortunately, these enraged democrats are ignoring the fact that the GOP spins everything to their advantage with great success.  They would blame the democrats and the average citizen would then be blaming the democrats.  After all, the republicans are the only ones doing the talking (at least effectively).

If this entire scenario seems weirdly familiar, it’s because it is.  Either by design or by accident, it’s the same storyline that played out in the 1995 movie ‘The American President”.  That movie starred actor Michael Douglas as the incredibly popular US president Andrew Shepard.  Shepard, who is a widower with a 12-year-old daughter,  is in the third year of his first term as president with a 63% approval rating.  He meets a liberal lobbyist (Annette Benning).  They get intimate and fall in love.  The press finds out and the GOP repeatedly attacks Shepard over the affair.  He ignores the attacks.  His approval rating starts sinking, eventually reaching 41%.

Meanwhile, Shepard has proposed crime prevention legislation he needs to pass in Congress.  He keeps watering it down more and more to get votes.  He also cheats his lobbyist girlfriend out of the chance to get her environmental legislation considered in exchange for the last 3 votes he needs.  When she finds out, she leaves him, telling him, “you just lost my vote!’

The next day he crashes the daily White House press briefing in one of the best-ever movie speeches, which is here:

Note his statement about being so busy keeping his job that he forget to do his job.  Up to that point, Obama could very well have been Michael Douglas, yielding over and over to political pressure, instead of leading affirmatively as the president and leader of his party.  But yesterday, president Obama sounded more like Michael Douglas at his press conference, especially toward the end of it.

If so, then Obama needs to teach his own party the lesson of the new reality, where the GOP will control the House of Representatives and can easily block any Senate legislation.  He should also tell them to not play “chicken” with either the economy or the financial survival of the unemployed.

Because if they do…well…that’s what the GOP does all the time.

Deficit Reduction: Lots of Pain Now, or Painful Death Later

The USA is suffering under the enormous burden of a huge nation debt, reported to be has high as US$13 trillion (with a “T”!), and growing.  In fact, it’s difficult to remember what it was like the last time the nation had a national budget surplus. Yet, it was only a decade ago that the USA was operating for the 4th straight year with such a budget surplus.  At the time, there was even talk about retiring the national debt of less than US$3 trillion within ten to twenty years!

What the hell happened??

2001 happened, or more specifically, the events of 2001.

First, GW Bush, who won (stole?) the 2000 election, became US president on January 20th, 2001.  He immediately set out to both dramatically increase military spending and give the rich a huge tax break, as well as a very modest tax break to some (but not all) of the middle class.  These actions effectively erased the budget surplus and created a US$158 billion budget deficit, beginning with the fiscal year 2002 (FY2002) budget on October 1 2001, Bush’s first budget.

The second thing that happened was the 9-11 attacks and the US response to them.  The Department of Home Security (DHS), a new and expensive government agency was created.  Within DHS, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was established.  While both actions were expensive, they were also necessary to protect the USA from both terrorists and incompetent isolated intelligence agencies.

Next, the USA invaded Afghanistan to rout the Taliban and their pals, Al Qaeda, the organizers of the 9-11 and other attacks.  It seemed at the time like a temporary measure, albeit very expensive and not budgeted for, with a clear goal of destroying the attackers and then getting out.  We’re still there, though.

Then came 2003.  While US military forces were mopping up in Afghanistan, GW Bush decided to take a little side trip to Iraq in March with the US military machine.  Again, it was sold as a quick but necessary detour on the road to wipe terror off the map.  Less than two months after the US invasion of Iraq (another very expensive and not-budgeted-for endeavor), Bush, backed by a huge “Mission Accomplished” banner on an aircraft carrier, claimed that “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended!

Note to the historically challenged:  The Iraq war wasn’t over.  US troops are still there.  Meanwhile, the Taliban regrouped in Afghanistan because we didn’t finish the job.  Now we’re spending more money over there than ever!

Oh yeah.. also in 2003, Bush gave the rich another huge tax cut.

GOP controlled all of congress and the presidency and spent like drunken sailors at a cat-house rummage sale.  The deficits were:

FY2003=US$378 billion;  FY 2004=US$413 billion;  FY2005=US$318 billion; FY2006=US$248 billion;  FY2007=US$168 billion.

FY 2008’s deficit, starting 10-1-10, was US$455 billion.  Then the recession began in December 2007.  Bush’s last budget (FY2009) was a whopping US$1.4 TRILLION (with a “T”!)

The 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire on December 31, 2010.  If they do, that would add between US$5 and 7 trillion to incoming revenue over the next 10 years.

The GOP is absolutely against letting the never-funded Bush tax cuts expire for the very rich, but they’re concurrently against extending unemployment benefits for the chronically unemployed (due to the economic recession they caused), because they are unfunded.  Contradictory, but true.

The hard left, on the other hand, doesn’t want entitlement programs touched in any way.

Against this seemingly deadlocked scenario, president Obama formed the bi-partisan deficit reduction commission which has now formulated the Bowles-Simpson plan:


• Reduce annual Social Security cost-of-living increases

• Raise Social Security retirement age to 69

• Eliminate mortgage interest deduction.

• Eliminate child tax credit

• Eliminate deductions that companies take for providing health insurance to their employees

• No Social security for those that make too much (needs based)

• Cut farm subsidies

• Cut foreign aid

• Cut the military budget.

• Increase the gasoline tax by 15 cents a gallon

• Freeze pay for most federal employees

• Cut the federal work force by 10%

• Eliminate all congressional  earmarks

• Lower overall tax rates

• Simplify the Tax Code

• Cap all taxes at 21% of gross domestic product (GDP)

• Limit federal spending initially to 22% of GDP

• Reduce top personal income tax rates from 35% to 23% and reduce corporate income tax rate from 35% to 26%

• Eliminate taxation on profits derived overseas by U.S.-based multinational corporations

• Limit federal spending initially to 22% of GDP

This plan would reduce the national deficit by US$4 trillion over the next 10 years. The yearly national budget could be balanced by 2018 and a budget surplus would happen by 2021! 75% of the savings results from spending cuts and only 25% from higher taxes.

Would it be painful?  Yep, so painful that many in congress on both sides say it’s DOA (dead on arrival).  But if these self-serving politicians could just “grow a set” and be the public servants they were elected to be, they would acknowledge that there are only two choices left:

Endure the pain now.  Or condemn their children and grandchildren to a horrible death by starvation…in the United States Annex of the People’s Republic Of China.