Thanks for this post go to Jeff, who sent me the following article by e-mail.

Traffic Controllers Declare Staffing Emergency at Four Airports
(excerpt below)

The staffing crisis in the nation’s air traffic control system is so severe and the potential for a serious accident climbing so rapidly that the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) today declared a staffing emergency covering airspace surrounding Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Southern California, four areas of the country with some the busiest airspace in the world.

NATCA says the emergency declaration means that controllers do not have sufficient numbers of trained and experienced personnel on the ground to safely handle the volume of traffic in the air and at major airports.

I remember a few weeks ago (December 19) on Chicago Tonight when Carol Marin hosted a panel discussing airline safety. Of course, the local Action McNews reporter focused on the ‘terror’ aspect (the Brown Menace might get a hold of expired airport IDs!! OH NOES!). The university-based ‘security expert’ advocated tossing taxpayer coin at some new Orwellian software that supposedly can read a person’s behavior and tell if they’re a terrorist. The real danger, of course, is a lot less fanciful. The senior O’Hare air traffic controller said that his people are so understaffed and overworked that they’re throwing new hires into the worse on-the-job training scenarios they can find just to see if they can cut it (because the training budget has been slashed). He then all but said that if a major disaster happens, it won’t be his people’s fault. At least we know that the Federal Government under Bush is truly carrying on the legacy of that strike-breaking right-wing hero, Ronald Reagan.

It’s the Katrina Principle: you put an industry insider (or other ideologically compatible hack) at the head of a government watchdog that regulates his industry. You slash staffing and budgets, thereby rendering the watchdog blind, lame, and useless. You wait for the predictable negative effect on the public. Then you blame ‘big government’ for the disaster and promptly funnel taxpayer money into private industry, which costs the taxpayers more and usually makes the problem worse. (If you’re really conscientious, you’ll get your insider to use her position to secure a lucrative and publicly useless contract for the industry right before she quits government and goes to work for the very company that got the contract; that’s a rhetorical flourish that reminds the Dirty Hippies who’s in charge.) There is a term for this kind of collusion between government and industry, and we’ve already got the economic part of it in spades. The political part is sneaking up on us in a hurry.

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