Incidentally, the company I fly for has made significant effort to lessen the likelihood of this kind of error. Our performance is done by a centralized loadplanner and SCAP (Standardised Computerised Aircraft Performance) http://www.iata.org/whatwedo/workgroups/pages/scaptf.aspx. QANTAS apparently aren't using this. One feature alerts the pilots if they have requested data for a weight that is unexpected, but it still gives us the data. It essentially says "is this really what you wanted because I don't agree that is what you weigh."
I suspect, sadly, that your bias against unions is an indicator that your mind is made up already.
Also of note regarding Vmcg, if Vr (reject) is lower than Vmcg, you're overweight for takeoff. Virtually never a factor for a modern aircraft.
ZFW and CG relate to how many people and bags and where they are located. Cost index and thrust reduction are mostly economic decisions. Flap setting is dictated by runway choice.
At my airline, takeoff data calculations are centralized (acquired through datalink) rather than carried onboard, but still require those variables.
Victory through Air-Power.
In the context of war in general, "air power" would indeed only be a part of what's necessary to achieving any victory- as you pointed out. But specific to how to deal with ISIS, "air power" is even less important, as this is a battle of ideology more than one of territory or geography. We cannot bomb the hate from their souls. Moreover, the souls are scattered across the globe anyway.
it's the infantry and armor who are going to finish this in the long run
I think that was tried and in fact shaped the issue as it stands now. Frankly, in hindsight it seems a complete failure to have destabilized the region allowing the deep seated sectarian conflicts the fuel and air to explode.
I personally would see another attempt to invade the region as folly. I think Arab nations should solve this problem: bringing down ISIS in the short term and eliminating radicalism at home in the long term. But they lack the will.
When Dexter's on the Internet, can Hell be far behind?"