UP IN ASHES
As airlines clamor to get back into Europe’s ash-filled skies, it’s tough not to think of the scene from Jaws in which the mayor fought to keep beaches open despite threats that a Great White Shark would turn swimmers into chum. Are the airlines — which, with government blessing, began limited flights Monday — blinding themselves to a serious threat? Or are those arguing for caution overrating the danger posed by an Icelandic volcano? The answer is not comforting: No one knows for sure. Abrasive ash can damage planes in many ways, sandblasting windshields or clogging air speed indicators. The most serious danger occurs when ash is sucked into the engine, melts or vaporizes, then coats the engine’s turbine. Air flow is blocked, causing the engines to lose thrust or shut down. Two commercial jetliners, one over Indonesia in 1982 and another over Alaska in 1989, have run into this. After flying into ash clouds, they fell thousands of feet, but pilots were able to restart their engines and fly at lower altitudes. The problem is that scientists can’t say how much ash it takes to kill an engine. “Does anyone know what the threshold value is?” asks Michael Fabian, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “I have not seen a number.”…
— USA TODAY/April 20
LET MARKET DECIDE BAGGAGE FEES
A senator from New York slaps down the airlines, intimidating them into dropping a plan to charge a fee for carry-on luggage, and we’re supposed to cheer. Why? “We have begun to put the brakes on runaway and out-of-control airline fees,” Sen. Chuck Schumer boasted. What’s he talking about? The airlines are hurting. Most of the big ones are in the red. In a tough business, they’re just trying to survive, let alone turn a profit, by charging more for this or that. This is what businesses do. Why then is Schumer or anybody else in government sticking his nose into what the airlines charge for carry-on luggage? If customers don’t want to pay the extra fee, they’ll fly on another airline. Or drive. Or take a train. Or stay home. The market will sort it out. Affordable plane rides are not guaranteed in the Constitution. Nowhere, last we looked, does it say our “inalienable rights” include “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and a coach fare on Delta.” …
— CHICAGO SUN-TIMES/April 20
TURNING A TARP PROFIT?
Count us among those gratified at the speed with which banks are repaying the loans they received under the much-maligned bailout program known as the Troubled Asset Relief Plan. Taxpayers even stand to profit in some cases. Overall, the cost of the TARP will be far less than the $700 billion originally approved by Congress. . . .TARP was the first of the bailout packages, approved in the waning days of the Bush administration. It may be the most resented because the money went to Wall Street firms, seen by many as responsible for the financial crisis. Fueling public ire were executive bonuses that some firms continued to pay after receiving bailout funds. However, TARP may turn out to be the most effective of all the trillion-plus spending programs the government has launched since the economic crisis began. . . .
— THE LINCOLN (Neb.) JOURNAL STAR/April 19
THE LIMITS OF FREE SPEECH?
We don’t begrudge the U.S. Supreme Court hearing and eventually deciding the controversial dispute between the father of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq and the leader of a small church in Kansas who organized a protest at the slain soldier’s funeral. In a better world there would be no wars. And there certainly would be no religious zealots attending a funeral carrying signs that read, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “You’re Going to Hell.” Without wars and hate-mongers, there would be no need for our highest court to determine whether such protests are protected free speech under the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Would finding the church protesters at fault infringe on their religion or their right to freedom of speech? Or, as a lower court ruled, is the church invading upon family privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress? Is there a Solomon-like ruling here that will clearly end this bitter legal battle? We doubt it…
— THE DETROIT NEWS/April 14
IN PRAISE OF THRIFT
In the spirit of economy — and modeling the lesson of thrift — this editorial won’t be long. “A Scout works to pay his way and to help others,” the Boy Scout Law says, in encouraging its members to be thrifty. “He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He is careful in his use of time and property.” Many people’s financial straits these days are forcing thrift, and that’s not necessarily bad. Actually, it’s about time. America is still the land of plenty, and making sure we still have plenty means keeping careful custody of our valuable resources. . . .For an object lesson on how absolutely not to be thrifty, look no further than our wasteful federal government. Many say we’re being taxed too much. But another problem is that government is spending too much, through egregious earmarks and entitlements. In fiscal health as in medical health, too much pork and fat is hazardous. This quote says it short and sweet: “True wealth comes not from having more but in wanting less.”
— THE AUGUSTA (Ga.) CHRONICLE/April 18