Delta Unfairly Criticized Over Baggage Fees For Troops?

June 27, 2011

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Last month, Delta airlines got a lot of heat for charging service men and women for their fourth checked bag when they are flying home. They had already waived the fee for the first three bags, but their system and policy was that a fourth bag was $200. Delta quickly changed that policy and went further to waive the baggage fees for family members traveling with service men and women. This decision was made to recover from the bad publicity that surrounded the initial exposure of these fees via a YouTube video made by some service men as they were flying home on board a Delta flight.

So far, everything in this story is just fine. An airline had a policy to charge for baggage as is allowed via free commerce. Some service men complained about the fees, exercising their rights of free speech. The general public and the news media supported the service men, exercising their rights of free speech and freedom of the press. Delta dropped the fees to avoid loss of customers, again exercising free commerce.

Last week, Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) introduced a resolution in the United States Congress to stop the fees. To quote Fox News who paraphrased the representative “those commercial airlines that refuse to do so could have their contracts reevaluated”. The resolution calls for “all airlines to provide military personnel with priority boarding, waivers of all baggage fees and priority seat preference when available”. I find this appalling. The federal government is trying to establish what fees a company can charge for services by fiat rather than negotiations and basically get something for free.

The United States military has plenty of airplanes and other vehicles to use to get our service men and women deployed and returned to their homes. The choice has been made to use commercial airlines. This is a good choice, but comes with responsibilities that the military has failed to fulfill. The United States Military has an obligation to negotiate fares and fees with the airlines for the services rendered. They (the United States Military) have the obligation to get our service people home, not the airlines. If the fares and fees have not been negotiated, it is unacceptable (to me) for the government to then strong arm and entire industry into un-compensated service.

I agree that our service men and women should not be paying these fees. I also do not think that these fees should be paid for by the airlines and therefore their non-military customers. The government has sent these men and women into a deployment, they should get them home. The government is more than willing to shell out millions of dollars to a fake Taliban representative, but skimps on the baggage fees of our military personnel.

If we take this situation to the extreme, why not pass a resolution that states that airlines must provide free seats to military returning or deploying. Now when they get to their destination, the taxis should provide free rides to their houses. And why not throw in free meals along the way. It is one thing when companies choose to give benefits to military families as part of their image building, it is quite another when they are forced to provide by government command.



The Bomber Pilot

September 6, 2010

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On this Labor day, I thought I would take up Kosmo’s challenge to write short story. For your enjoyment, a story called “The Bomber Pilot”

Forty four hours since they had taken off and just one hour way from home. Captain Andrew Decker was proud to be the pilot of a B-2 Spirit Bomber. Major Walter Hampton was his commander sitting in the left seat for this leg of the mission. They had been the flight crew for take off, the bombing run and now for landing. Captain Zachary Wetherby and Lieutenant Catherine Miller were the second crew sleeping after their trans-pacific effort.

Andrew loved flying and loved being part of the strategic bomber command. All those hot shot fighter pilots might get the girls, but he was home four nights a week in the loving embrace of his wife Rosalyn (Rosie) and playing with his kids, Emily and Andy junior.

Forty five minutes out. “Call for clearance, then wake them up,” Major Hampton ordered. “Little Rock, Spirit of Ohio, forty five minutes out, requesting clearance,” Andy broadcast. “Ohio, ping IFF,” was the instant response. Andy activated the identification device. “Ohio, we confirm, clear runway four nine, you are next in line, no traffic.” “Roger runway four nine, g’day.” Andy switched to the intercom, “Wake up, we are home.” Andy didn’t hear the groans from the sleeping area as they sat up and fastened their harnesses. They still had to de-brief before finally getting home to sleep. Cathy was single and lived in the single officer’s dorm, Zach was on deployment, his family was in Dover, Delaware. Andy and Walter had taken the last leg to be awake when they got home.

Andy remembered a Navy story of a sailor coming home after a long deployment. His letter home was “you had better meet me at the dock with a mattress strapped to your back.” The response letter was “you had better be the first man off the boat.” After two day missions, Andy felt the same way.

They landed and got through de-brief. The mission had been perfect. The target was verified destroyed, there was no politically incorrect collateral damage, and for once, the French agreed with the target. Andy had called home as soon as they had landed, and again after de-brief, but there was no answer. Rosie must have been getting Emily from school. They could never plan his return since is take off and landing schedule were classified. Oh, well, he would just surprise her.

The drive across the base to married housing was quick. Kids were out playing, other air force jockeys doing their things. Rosie’s car was parked in front of the house, she must have just gotten home. Well if she listened to the messages, she knew he was back, no surprise. He parked the bright yellow Corvette next to the little blue Prius and hopped up the steps of the front porch.

The front door was slightly open. That was odd, he would have expected it if the kids were out front playing, but they were inside. He pushed it open and called out in a booming voice “DADDY’S HOME!” There was no response. He didn’t smell supper cooking, didn’t hear the kids. He walked through the house to the kitchen and looked into the back yard, not there either. Maybe they were next door with the Wilson’s. Rosie and Jackie were best friends and the kids were about the same ages. Andy decided to clean up a bit before heading over. He went to his bed room taking off his flight suit as he walked. At the door to the bed room he stopped.

Rosie and the kids were lying on his bed. They looked like they were sleeping, but Andy knew that they were not. The spread was soaked with blood. It took him a long time before he could move, then suddenly he rushed into the room and scooped his wife up in his arms. He held her lifeless body against him, her blood soaking his flight suit and shirt. He stood, holding her and crying. He didn’t notice as his body slowly sagged down and he set her back on the bed.

When his world came back into focus, he had to do something. He ran next door and started pounding, screaming for Jackie. Jackie’s smile flickered on when she saw him, then off when she saw the blood. “Andy what has happened?” “They are dead, they are all dead,” he stammered between sobs. Jackie backed up and grabbed the phone. She called the base police without taking her eyes off of Andy. As calmly as she could, she told the dispatcher the address and that she believed that three people had been killed.

Andy just stood there, shaking and sobbing. He had been out protecting his country and he had not been there to protect his family. His energy gave out and he collapsed on Jackie’s porch.

When he awoke, he was in a hospital bed, clean, and dressed in a hospital gown. There was an MP outside the open door and a Colonel sitting next to him. “Welcome back Captain.” “Yes, Sir, have you found out what happened to my family?” “We thought that you might be able to fill us in on that Captain.” “I walked in, saw them…” he sobbed, “I tried to pick up my wife … hold her…” Andy started to cry again. “Hm, Captain, please control yourself. We would like to know what happened during the hour between your debrief and you arrival at the Wilson front porch?” “What do you mean? It was only a couple of minutes.”

“Captain, we understand the stress that missions can cause, we are just trying to determine what happened.” “I told you, I walked in and found them,” there was some desperation in his voice as he realized that the Colonel was suggesting he had killed his own family. The Colonel leaned close, “Captain, there was no forced entry, the knife was cleaned and in the sink, and the time of death matches when you were there. What happened?”

Andy realized then that the killers had heard his message. They had killed his family as he pulled up. He had warned them so they could get out the back door. He was now the only suspect.

The Military Needs to be More Fabulous

February 11, 2010

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Ask any republican politician and they’ll tell you we’re fighting a war, regardless of the fact that no war was ever declared by congress.  Despite this, combating terrorism is something that is often on top of the list of priorities of things to do when you’re running the United States, or attempting to scare the general public into submission.  You’d think we’d want the top intelligence possible when fighting terrorism, and to do so clearly we’d want the best linguists in both the Farsi and Arabic languages.  Yet more than a few linguistic experts have been dismissed from the military for being gay in the past few years alone.  Don’t believe me?  Do a Google search with the phrase “how many military experts have been dismissed for being gay?”

I’m sure there are a ton of boilerplate arguments as to why we need to keep gays out of the military, or at the least keep them from coming out.  Let’s go over them one by one, and if I missed your argument please feel free to express it in the comments after this article.

1)  “Homosexuality destroys unit cohesion”

A recent article from UC Davis shows that this is simply not true.(1)  The TL:DR of this article is that task focus is greater than social acceptance and the military is a task-oriented organization.  Our military got over integrating minorities.  It got over integrating women.  It will get over integrating homosexuals.

2)  “Homosexuality is bad for morale”

As early as the mid 1990’s, the American Psychological Association stated this simply isn’t true.  Based on studies of foreign military systems that allow homosexuals, there is little to no evidence that there is disruption or loss of effectiveness.  (2)

3)  “Military leaders have expressed in the past that allowing homosexuals to serve would be disruptive”

Many of those military leaders have now changed their mind.  Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili and former Senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who both spoke against gays in the military as recently as 2007 have since changed their minds.  (3)

4)  “Most members of the military would oppose homosexuals in their unit”

 There are some polls that show a sizable percentage of military members oppose openly homosexual fellow soldiers, but those polls are generally from 2006 or earlier.  A Zogby poll of recent veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan showed that 3/4 of them were comfortable interacting with homosexuals in their military life.  (4)

Now a few pros:

The cost savings alone should be worth it to the right, who continually try to label themselves as fiscally sound.  In a 2006 report the Pentagon stated that discharging gays from the military cost well over a quarter of a billion dollars in lost training, re-training and recruiting. (5) 

A bigger issue to your average republican politician, who continually bash the current administration for being “too soft” on terrorists, should be the loss of much-needed linguists.  In May of 2007, the Pentagon discharged 57 Arabic linguists for being gay.  Iraq was perhaps at its most fragile at that time, and Afghanistan was just beginning to flare up – should this have been the time to bend rules and keep some of your most valuable intelligence assets on hand?  For you sports fans, this seems to me to be like firing half your scouts a month before the draft.

Finally, there’s the moral issue that some will argue.  America was founded on moral principals and needs to stand by those principals while we fight those who seek to undermine us and destroy our way of life.  I counter that by say this country became great by embracing diversity and being open about change.  Some of our greatest moments include the abolition of slavery and the women’s rights movement.  If we don’t allow gays to openly serve in our military, what does that say about us?  I say it makes us no better than the intolerance and hate we claim to fight in the name of fighting terrorism.  To those who still oppose gays in the military, why do you hate America?