Tag Archives: opinion piece

Indentured Servitude is STILL alive and well in the U.S.


Back in October of 2013 I posted my most read blog article . . . by far. It garnered an astounding 7,368 views. And now, unfortunately, that article becomes timely once again. Only, this time, substitute President Donald J. Trump for any references that were previously made about Senator Ted Cruz (another absolutely despicable human being). And this time the hissy fit isn’t Obamacare. This time it is over a wall that nearly everyone acknowledges will neither add anything to national security, nor mitigate crossings along our border with Mexico, all at a cost that would eventually exceed $40 billion if completed along our entire southern flank. Besides, the president has had two years now to make Mexico pay for that wall, right?

And here is that reprinted article:

An Airport Traffic Control (ATC) Tower

An Airport Traffic Control Tower (ATCT)

Take it from a former controller who has in his 34 years in the business worked at some pretty busy facilities under less than ideal conditions with obsolete or failing equipment and uncooperative weather:  There are few if any jobs more stressful than air traffic control.  Period.  It’s certainly more stressful than being, say, a congressman or a senator.

Imagine working New York TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) during a busy inbound rush of air carriers, failing equipment, and a line of thunderstorms pushing into the area from the west.  Throw into that mix an inflight emergency or two and perhaps an aircraft with minimum fuel that needs to get on the ground right now.

Then let’s add to all that stress.

Let’s tell those controllers that they have to go to work, but a group of about thirty congressmen and a senator or two who didn’t agree with the results of the last election are going to refuse to allow the United States Congress to pay them.

These already overworked, stressed controllers have mortgages to make, utilities to pay, car payments, grocery bills, kids in college . . . but none of that makes any difference.  They are required by federal law to work.  For free.  Indefinitely.

Think that’s fair?  That’s what’s happening right now, this very second.  In New York.  In Dallas.  In Atlanta.  In Chicago.  In Los Angeles.  In myriad other busy facilities across this great nation.  All because of thirty-some-odd Congressmen and at least one delusional, grand-standing Senator from Texas who has ambitions beyond the senate seat he’s held for less than ten months.

Tomorrow, these controllers will be paid for only 48 of the 80 or more hours they worked — the 48 hours they worked before the shutdown that occurred just thirteen days ago.  Those controllers received that bad news when they got their “pay” statements last Thursday.  Two weeks from tomorrow the amount in their paychecks drops to Z-E-R-O despite working another 80 or more hours during the next pay period.

How long do you think you could financially hold on under such conditions?  How long do you think it’ll be before some of these controllers have to resign to find jobs that pay the bills?  How long do you think it’ll be before retirement-eligible controllers with 20 or 25+ years of badly needed experience and who are currently mentoring an already far-too-young and inexperienced group of new controllers decide that they should go into retirement just to pay the bills?  (Controllers, by the way, are only allowed to work to the last day of the month in which they turn 56 because of the stresses inherent to their jobs, and because before that reduction in the retirement age, very few controllers could make it to mandatory retirement because of failing health and deteriorating abilities and reaction times.  These are the professionals who your congressman is stiffing on pay for work they’ve already done.)

How long before that radar control room guiding your airliner is staffed like this?:

The Control Room of a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON)

The Control Room of a Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON)

And while these people are working for free, I’d like for you to consider this:  Those congressmen?  The ones who before the last election proclaimed the 2012 elections a “referendum on Obamacare?”  The congressmen who are now having a temper tantrum because, at their core, they apparently only believe in democracy when it suits them?

Those congressmen work on average just two days out of every five-day workweek, earn at a minimum $174,000 a year (Speaker Boehner gets a whopping $223,500 for not doing his job), are vested for retirement benefits after only five years on what I laughingly call “the job,” get federally subsidized healthcare (which those thirty want to deny people who make one tenth as much as they), and they continue to receive those pay and all those benefits while your air traffic controllers are forced to do without.  Those congressmen certainly aren’t hurting financially during this self-induced “crisis,” but your air traffic controllers certainly are.

How dare any elected representative do this to employees who work for them?  How dare any elected representative put employees’ families through this kind of stress and uncertainty?  How dare anyone whose job is given to them by a democratic process repudiate the outcome of a democratic election because they do not agree with the results?

It is way past time to start reducing the stress levels of your already overstressed air traffic controllers, and to start raising the stress levels of your elected representative.  And if you live in the state of Texas, as do I, it’s way past time to tell the wealthy Senator Ted Cruz (55th wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate) that if he doesn’t agree with democracy, then it’s well beyond time to democratically terminate his employment come next election.

These people, quite frankly, disgust this former Republican who, effective October 1 of this year, no longer affiliates himself with what once was truly the Grand Old Party . . . but is no more.

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Filed under Author, Aviation Safety, Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker, Social Networking, Writing

Memorial Day Missive Redux


Today I present a rerun of last year’s missive on how the nation has failed the all-volunteer military.  It’s become a national disgrace.  I’m rerunning this because of this L.A. Times article I stumbled across today (please take the time to read it; it’s that important):  U.S. military and civilians are increasingly divided

And, now, from last year’s Memorial Day blog posting:

American Cemetery in Normandy, France

Once again National barbecue and Outdoor Grill Day is upon us . . . or so it seems from the lack of solemnity that greets this supposedly somber day.

In the waning days of the Vietnam War this country ended military conscription — “The Draft” — and with the draft’s demise so, too, ended any concept of shared sacrifice on the home front during time of war.  In wars prior to and throughout most of Vietnam citizens were asked to send their fathers and sons to battle, and to support the war effort through rationing, volunteerism, and, yes, even taxes.  Upon their return our fathers and sons were propped up during their transition from the horrors of war to the mundaneness of a civilian, nine-to-five, off-on-weekends existence.  We paid for their college education, tended to their wounds both physical and mental, rehabilitated their disabilities, and returned them to society for the most part as fully functioning members.

June 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day

Back then the Veterans Administration was a thing of wondrous humanity that defined how we as a nation cared for our warriors in their time of need.  It defined us as a people, and it let those who fought our battles know that we would not abandon them once the gunfire ceased.

Not so today.  We have now as a society isolated ourselves from wars we send our fellow citizens to fight.  No longer do we send our own off to perhaps die.  Now we are content to get someone else’s child — usually from the lower income and educational strata of our society — to “volunteer” into perhaps their only shot at a better life.

Meanwhile, we allow our political leaders to sell us on avoiding any related wartime pain while at the same time allowing corporate profiteers to enrich themselves on the sacrifices of others.  There is no rationing.  No one is asked to curtail their standard of living.  Taxes are cut.  The costs of today’s wars are pushed forward to future generations.  Our leaders tell us that it’s our patriotic duty to take the family and, “. . . get down to Disney World,” rather than do the unpopular things necessary as a society that has made the collective decision to wage war.

If the Draft was Good Enough for Them then it is Good Enough for Us

Now that the post-9/11 wars are coming to a close — one of which was totally optional and complete folly; and the whole raison d’être for the other having ended over three years ago on May 2, 2011 — we are once again failing our warriors at the most basic, civilized level.  This is far from new.  We as a nation have failed in this area ever since conscription ended in this country over forty years ago.

And that won’t change until conscription returns.  Needless wars will continue to be fought and necessary wars will extend well beyond the stated mission goal is reached as long as political leaders and business executives profit without risk to their own progeny and the majority of voters are isolated from any shared sacrifice and pain.

So, to clarify the title of this Memorial Day message, let me state the following:

When I say that the all-volunteer military has been a complete and utter failure I don’t mean that our men and women in uniformed service have failed us.  Far from it.  I mean that we as a nation have failed them, and it’s well beyond time to make amends by returning the pain and sacrifice of war back to the home front.  When everyone’s child is at risk, only then will our returning warriors get the help they so desperately deserve.

German Bunker Overlooking Pointe de Hoc, Normandy

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Filed under Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker

Memorial Day Missive — The All-Volunteer Concept is a Complete and Utter Failure


American Cemetery in Normandy, France

Once again National Barbecue and Outdoor Grill Day is upon us . . . or so it seems from the lack of solemnity that greets this supposedly somber day.

In the waning days of the Vietnam War this country ended military conscription — “The Draft” — and with the draft’s demise so, too, ended any concept of shared sacrifice on the home front during time of war.  In wars prior to and throughout most of Vietnam citizens were asked to send their fathers and sons to battle, and to support the war effort through rationing, volunteerism, and, yes, even taxes.  Upon their return our fathers and sons were propped up during their transition from the horrors of war to the mundaneness of a civilian, nine-to-five, off-on-weekends existence.  We paid for their college education, tended to their wounds both physical and mental, rehabilitated their disabilities, and returned them to society for the most part as fully functioning members.

June 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day

Back then the Veterans Administration was a thing of wondrous humanity that defined how we as a nation cared for our warriors in their time of need.  It defined us as a people, and it let those who fought our battles know that we would not abandon them once the gunfire ceased.

Not so today.  We have now as a society isolated ourselves from wars we send our fellow citizens to fight.  No longer do we send our own off to perhaps die.  Now we are content to get someone else’s child — usually from the lower income and educational strata of our society — to “volunteer” into perhaps their only shot at a better life.

Meanwhile, we allow our political leaders to sell us on avoiding any related wartime pain while at the same time allowing corporate profiteers to enrich themselves on the sacrifices of others.  There is no rationing.  No one is asked to curtail their standard of living.  Taxes are cut.  The costs of today’s wars are pushed forward to future generations.  Our leaders tell us that it’s our patriotic duty to take the family and, “. . . get down to Disney World,” rather than do the unpopular things necessary as a society that has made the collective decision to wage war.

If the Draft was Good Enough for Them then it is Good Enough for Us

Now that the post-9/11 wars are coming to a close — one of which was totally optional and complete folly; and the whole raison d’être for the other having ended over three years ago on May 2, 2011 — we are once again failing our warriors at the most basic, civilized level.  This is far from new.  We as a nation have failed in this area ever since conscription ended in this country over forty years ago.

And that won’t change until conscription returns.  Needless wars will continue to be fought and necessary wars will extend well beyond the stated mission goal is reached as long as political leaders and business executives profit without risk to their own progeny and the majority of voters are isolated from any shared sacrifice and pain.

So, to clarify the title of this Memorial Day message, let me state the following:

When I say that the all-volunteer military has been a complete and utter failure I don’t mean that our men and women in uniformed service have failed us.  Far from it.  I mean that we as a nation have failed them, and it’s well beyond time to make amends by returning the pain and sacrifice of war back to the home front.  When everyone’s child is at risk, only then will our returning warriors get the help they so desperately deserve.

German Bunker Overlooking Pointe de Hoc, Normandy

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Filed under Author, Opinion Piece, R. Doug Wicker