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Sunday 15 May 2005

Here We Go With The Fat Cat Bashing

Philip Greenspun makes a good point about last week’s idiocy involving a small plane over Washington; and his commenters points out that, if the government really believed that there was much of a chance of a bomb being aboard the plane, why did cops rush right up to it after it landed, with guns pointed? Aren’t you usually better served by maintaining a good distance from a bomb?

When all this was going on, I was driving around and thus not near a TV. Instead, I was listening to the Fox News TV audio on the XM radio. Fox News seems to have the most entertaining coverage of things like this, because they are willing to immediately veer into conspiracy theory and extreme possibilities. (“Do you think there might be a nuclear weapon on board, General?” “Well, obviously I don’t know anything about what’s inside that plane, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if there were. Also, it’s possible that that Cessna 150 is equipped with air-to-air missiles, so our Brave Boys up there had better look out.”) You can tell that the people on the other news channels are just itching to go down the same path, but they usually manage to restrain themselves.

Anyway, the interesting thing was that Fox had on a guest bloviator, one John Loftus. Loftus is a former federal prosecutor and now apparently a full-time author and pundit.

He made the astute observation that, given that this was such a small plane (and thus not likely to be able to do significant damage to a building, even if it were full of explosives), the evacuations of buildings in Washington were silly.

He went on to say:

Now what you have here is a little tiny airplane that should have—90% of the time, this happens with very rich people who think they’re above the law. They think they can afford a plane. They don’t care about these air defense zones. 9/11 applies to everyone else, and not them. […]
Now it will probably turn out it’s just some arrogant businessman who wanted a closeup look at the Capitol Building. Now ironically, we have laws where we can seize a Cadillac from a drug dealer; if he uses somebody else’s car at a crime it gets seized. We don’t have a law to seize that airplane, and we should. Every time one of these idiots sends all of our people in DC scurrying around getting out of his way, take the little plane away. Make Daddy pay for it. Hit him in the pocketbook….

(I found a transcript here.)

What the hell? To begin with, most of you probably drive a car that costs more than a Cessna 150: I certainly do. “Make Daddy pay for it”? “Arrogant businessman”?

It’s important to remember that these statements were made while the plane was still in the air; a few minutes later, those with TVs were treated to the sight of the occupants of the airplane being yanked to the ground and handcuffed. When these statements were made, nothing was known about the people in the plane. (Later, they turned out to be a 69-year-old pilot and his student. No word on whether either of them are arrogant or businessmen, but that they are not being charged with any crime would seem to indicate that there was no mens rea: not that that’s always a consideration these days.)

Had Mr. Loftus suggested that the people in the plane were ‘stupid, arrogant illegal aliens’, he would have been held up by the host (Linda Vester) and asked to explain himself — after she’d delivered a little speech about how most illegal aliens weren’t pilots at all. If he’s said that the people in the plane were probably black, he’d have been shouted down by the audience (this was on during Dayside, Fox’s midday questions-from-the-audience show). As it is, they applauded his suggestion that what was needed wasn’t a $500 device that could eliminate the possibility that pilots would get lost, but rather more power on the government’s part to seize private property without due process.

And this was on the ‘conservative’ news channel. This is what ‘conservatism’ has come to, it seems: knee-jerk police-statism and reflexive disgust at the imagined wealth and therefore ‘arrogance’ of people you know nothing about. It’s worthy of Atlas Shrugged.

Posted by tino at 11:50 15.05.05
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It’s possible to purchase a decent Cessna 150 for about the same price as Honda or Toyota sedan. But this is an apples to oranges comparison.

A modern car will happily go past 100,000 miles with just occasional oil changes and tune-ups. For a typical pilot who flies about 100 hours a year, the minimum cost PER HOUR is about $50 - not including any loan payments.

Posted by: at May 15, 2005 10:40 PM

Owning an airplane is, yes, generally going to be more expensive than owning a car. And you still need to own a car anyway to get to the airport (or to get to the grocery store if you live next to the airport.

But $50 an hour isn’t all that much. The AAA claims that a new car costs $0.562 per mile to operate. At aircraft speeds, $0.56 per mile is at least $50 an hour. This amount does include depreciation of the vehicle, so over small-aircraft range distances, driving a car looks to be a bit cheaper than flying: but only a bit.

Posted by: Tino at May 16, 2005 08:34 AM