Another Waste of Taxpayer Money

I knew the FAA was slow, but this is ridiculous.

I’m terrible about opening my mail. I routinely fetch it from my mailbox (which is two miles from my home) and leave it on the dashboard of whatever vehicle I’m driving. Or toss it behind the seat. Or bring it inside, but leave it in my “inbox” pile. No matter where it enters my life, it sits there for a long time. Truth be told, there’s a six-month period in early 2014 when I just stuffed it all in a box and lost it in my garage. (I honestly think there’s a black hole in there.)

This time of year, when I’m actually expecting checks, I pay a little closer attention to what comes in the mail. That’s why I noticed the letter from the FAA and opened it within two weeks of receipt. (Heck, I knew the FAA wasn’t sending a check, so why rush?)

Inside was the letter dated 5/19/2017 that you can see below.

FAA Letter
So the FAA basically waited 17 years to give me an opportunity to opt out of releasing my address to the public.

It basically says that back on April 5, 2000 (not a typo), Congress and the President — Bush 43, I guess — enacted a law that required the FAA to make pilot addresses available to the public. Fortunately, I can opt-out of this invasion of my privacy by signing the letter and sending it back to the FAA.

But I have to hurry! Even though it took them 17 years to send me this letter, I only have 90 days to respond.

Can you believe this crap?

My first thought was what a waste of taxpayer money this is. Wikipedia reports that there were 590,039 certificated pilots in the United States as of 2015 year-end. That means the FAA had to print and mail 590,039 letters just like the one I got.

Maybe that’s why it took so long? Maybe they just got up to the Ls?

So the FAA has blown through 1181 reams of paper and a similar number of boxes of envelopes. Even if they got bulk rate on mailing all those envelopes, they’ve still spent well over $100,000 on postage. Somebody had to handle the mailing — even if a machine stuffed the envelopes, someone still had to tend to that machine and get them to the post office. How many trips to the Post Office is that? Do they have trucks standing by for mass mailings like this?

So how much money have they pissed away on this so far? A quarter million? More?

And then there’s the processing. I’m not going to the website. I’m going to sign the letter and mail it back. There’s got to be some poor slob in Oklahoma City who’s sitting at a desk just waiting for envelopes with signed letters to come in. He or she has to look up each one in the system and toggle a check box to say we want our addresses kept private. And then what? Do they actually file all that paper? Stick it in filing cabinets? How many filing cabinets do they have? How many rooms does that fill? Do they have buildings filled with filing cabinets of paper?

Paper!

And for what? What gives Congress and the President the right to decide that the public is entitled to the addresses of certificated pilots? What is the benefit of such a rule? Why would they even do this?

And who the hell wouldn’t opt out?

This is stupid from start to end. it’s wallpapered with stupid.

But that’s our tax dollars at work. Imagine how many educational programs the cost of this mailing would have funded. How many Meals on Wheels dinners. How many airport improvements, for Pete’s sake.

Why are the people in Washington so damn stupid with our money?

Why I’m Not Blogging about Politics

A post in which I proceed to blog about politics.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m very involved there with politics. But if you follow this blog, you know that I very seldom blog about it.

I’ll make my position clear here just once: I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he’s a conman who isn’t sincere about anything he promised his base during the campaign. I think his only goal as president is to make himself and his family richer by playing the system any way he can. I think that the only reason he’s a [supposed] billionaire is because he started life with millions he got from his father, consistently cuts project costs by not paying his contractors what he owes them, and has been bailed out after more than a few bad business decisions. For Pete’s sake, the guy has six bankruptcies under his belt — doesn’t that speak volumes? How people can trust and believe in a conman like this is beyond me.

I think he’s semi-literate, a guy with a tiny vocabulary who can’t be bothered to prepare for meetings or speeches because he thinks he can bluff his way through them — and everyone lowers their standards to make sure he does.

I also think he’s a crazy narcissist who needs constant ego stroking, a true man-child who can only focus on things that affect him personally. I think he’s delusional in the sense that he rewrites events in his own mind to fit the narrative he wants to tell about himself and then actually believes the new story. Simply said, he believes his own lies.

I think members of his staff likely did collude with Russia during the election — and maybe he did, too — and that Putin definitely has enough dirt on him to make him march to his tune. I think he’s hiding far more than he’s revealing and I’m sure that what he’s hiding is plenty to be ashamed of.

And no, I don’t want to debate it. So save your pro-Trump comments for some other blog.

And yes, I would like to see him removed from office. Impeachment would be nice. So would a resignation. Heck, I’d probably celebrate if he just dropped dead of a heart attack.

(Not that I think Pence is good for this country, but that’s a whole other story.)

But that doesn’t mean I’m one of the rabid left wing anti-Trump kooks that are making fools of themselves by believing every single Trump conspiracy theory thrown at them.

And I’m outraged by the people cooking up these theories and pushing them. While it’s possible that these people actually believe the nonsense they’re spouting, I think it’s a lot more likely that they’re trying to secure a position for themselves on the far left like Alex Jones’s position on the far right: offensive nut jobs who can turn a buck by building a following of gullible people on the left who are desperate for any hope that Trump will be removed from office in shame.

And I’m fed up with people who tweet and retweet these theories and then get upset with me when I advise them not to believe anything until it’s published by a credible news source. As if I’m somehow “the enemy” because I’m not as gullible and desperate as they are.

Seriously?

I recently changed the tweet pinned to the top of my Twitter profile page in an effort to advise people who are going nuts these days over what they’re seeing and reading and believing. Will it help? Probably not. But it’s my new mantra when it comes to politics: “PAY ATTENTION, everyone. Think before you react. Check before you believe. And, for pete’s sake, CALM DOWN!”

While there are similarities and differences between our current state of political affairs and the Watergate scandal that brought down Nixon, I have full confidence that the legal system will do the right thing when it comes to dealing with Trump.

Eventually.

Until then, I see no reason to blog about politics anymore. I have more interesting — and positive — things to write about.

Want to comment on this post? Comments are open — for now. But there are a few strings attached.

First, read the Comment Policy. You’ll find a very informative comic there about “free speech” that perfectly illustrates my thoughts on the matter. If your comment violates this policy in any way, it will be deleted before it even appears. Even I won’t read it.

Second, if your comment mentions Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (or emails or Benghazi, etc.) as a reason for supporting Trump now, today, after all the shit that’s come down since the election, I will delete your comment. If you can’t make a 2017 argument for supporting Trump, you obviously haven’t thought much about what’s going on and have nothing worth sharing here. Go back to your Fox News bubble and leave the rest of us who actually care about the future of our country alone.

Third, don’t expect me to debate with you on the merits of Donald Trump. I won’t. No matter how nicely you present your argument, thus getting it past moderation, I will not reply. I’ve said everything I have to say above and you cannot convince me that I’m wrong about any of it.

If you want to respond to someone who has commented, keep that comment policy in mind. And keep it civil. If I don’t spend all of my time moderating this post’s comments, the comments will stay open. But if moderation becomes a chore, I’ll shut it down.

Seriously, I have better things to do with my time than deal with MAGA trolls.

Paying It Forward: Retro Dinette Edition

When a Craig’s List sale isn’t exactly a “sale.”

Years ago, when I lived in Arizona and was nearing the peak of my writing career, I had a lot of disposable income. Before I began dumping it into aviation and what would become my third career as a helicopter pilot, I invested that extra cash in real estate. One year, I bought a condo in town to use as a rental. The following year I got more ambitious and bought a property with a two bedroom, two bath house and a four unit apartment building on it.

The apartments, which were studios, were functional and cute. They were all furnished; the previous owner had lived in the house with her grown son and rented the apartments out to an assortment of low income folks and winter visitors. The furniture was the kind of stuff you’d find at a garage sale. In fact, that’s where most of it ended up since I wound up refurnishing every unit with southwest style lodgepole furniture made on order by a small company in Phoenix. I was trying to make the place a little more upscale, hoping to attract a different sort of tenant. (For the record, I count that as one of my failures.)

Retro Dinette
The table and chairs pose for a Craig’s List photo against my garage door. One chair was in perfect condition while the other had some upholstery issues. And yes, they are kind of ugly.

I did keep a few items, including a drop-leaf formica table and two vinyl-covered chairs. I don’t know why I kept them; maybe they reminded me of my childhood? They were certainly from that era — the 1960s or maybe even earlier — and well-made. They eventually wound up in my Wickenburg hangar where the table became a stand for my small hangar fridge and the microwave I kept on top of it. The chairs didn’t get much use.

When I moved out of my Wickenburg hangar in September 2013, the table and chairs were packed into the moving truck along with boxes of household items and other better furniture. They were unpacked into a hangar in East Wenatchee, where they sat with my other furniture until June 2014. That’s when they moved again, this time into my new home in Malaga. And it might come as no surprise that my little fridge wound up on top of the table again in my big garage.

As anyone who has been in my garage can tell you, I have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff, in fact. I’m one of those people who holds onto things if I think they might have any use at all in the future. (This also explains why I still own the Jeep Wrangler I bought new in 1999, the Honda S2000 I bought new in 2003, and the Yamaha Seca II I bought new in 1993; heck, I do use them all. It also explains why I have such a big garage.) Little by little, I’ve been selling off the stuff I no longer need/use/want. When I bought a nice rolling media cart at a school sale last year and the little fridge went on top of that, I no longer had any use at all for the table. So I listed it on Craig’s List.

I should mention that I tried to sell it last year, too. The table is probably considered an “antique” and it likely has some real value. I think I listed it for $80 last year but didn’t get a single call.

This year, I listed it for $40. It’s not as if I needed the money. It’s just that when you list something with any value for free on Craig’s List, you get all kinds of weird characters competing to claim it. I didn’t want to deal with all that.

I got a call from a girl who was interested but unable to come see it. She said she’d call back but I didn’t hear from her again.

Then I got a call from a guy in Seattle — a 3+ hour drive from here — who was very eager to come. He called at 3 PM on a Sunday and asked if he could come that night. I suspect he realized that the table had some value; maybe he even knew where he could sell it to turn a quick buck on the west side. I said, “You want to drive all the way out here for a $40 table?” He hesitated and then said, “I like retro furniture.” But I guess I’d planted a seed in his head. Was it really worth six to eight hours of a day to scoop up this bargain? What would gas cost? And what if the condition of the table wasn’t as good as he expected? He told me he’d call back. I never heard from him again.

I renewed the listing on Craig’s list. Another girl called. In all honesty, it could be the first girl. She lived in Chelan and could come Monday after work. She got out at 5 PM and would be here by 6. I didn’t tell her that it would take more than an hour to get here from Chelan.

She showed up at 6:45, still dressed for work, full of apologies. By that time, I had the garage door open for her. As we walked to where I’d stowed it in the back of the garage, a small pickup truck with a cap pulled up. She told me her parents had come in case she couldn’t get it in her car. That meant two vehicles had made the hour+ drive from Chelan. Soon we were all in the garage looking at the table.

I struggled to figure out how the supports for the drop leafs worked and finally succeeded in raising one side. It was a cool mechanism that I had completely forgotten about — the legs of the table actually slid out on a wooden track. (Seriously: they don’t make stuff like this anymore.) Her mom sat in one of the chairs. We chatted. I asked her if it was for her first apartment and she said it was.

I thought back to my first apartment. I was 20 years old and right out of college. It was a big studio with a separate kitchen in a not-too-savory part of Hempstead, NY. From my 6th floor window, I could see my old college dorm just a few miles away. I’d struggled a bit to furnish it with a combination of used and cheap new furniture, none of which I still own. I remembered the excitement of those days, of starting a new life away from home and school, of earning a living for myself. Every day was an adventure or challenge. I seldom had more than $20 in my pocket and liked to hold onto it as long as I could.

So when she handed me the $40, I told her to keep it.

She was surprised and asked if I was sure. I told her I was and that it was my housewarming gift to her. I told her that when she was ready to replace it, maybe she could sell it for $100 and put that towards the new set.

Her dad loaded the table into the truck and I carried over one of the chairs while she took the other one. They slipped it inside and closed the cap on the truck. We chatted for a while about the winery down the street and I urged them to come back there for a tasting one weekend. And then I shook her hand and wished her good luck.

Gotta pay it forward.

The funniest thing to me about the whole exchange? None of them so much as mentioned the elephant in the room: the helicopter parked in my garage.