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Impeach Norm Mineta! Bumperstickers Available

More Room Throughout Coach

The Website of Free Miles and Free Markets


I'll help you earn free travel, but you'll have to put up with my sick sense of humor and political opinions.

Quick Grammar Quiz: Does the previous sentence imply that my political opinions are sick, or just my sense of humor?

Saturday, August 31, 2002
It's official: Tilton is the new United Airlines Chairman. Now if only the Transportation Department could get itself a new leader...
United Airlines is set to announce Glenn Tilton, the Vice Chairman of ChevronTexaco, as its new CEO. When interim CEO Jack Creighton steps down, it is expected that United's President Rono Dutta and COO Andy Studdert will resign.

Friday, August 30, 2002
My prediction looks about right. USAirways acknowledges that if other airlines don't match its policy of eliminating the value of unused nonrefundable tickets, they will likely back off.

However, American Airlines has said they will begin to match -- and they will charge $100 to standy for alternate flights on nonrefundable tickets.
Advancing Civil Society. Tony Woodlief has some common sense suggestions for improving the way that we all share the road. Time to apply for those concealed carry permits and legalize road rage...
Barun Mitra stirs up some trouble by awarding the "Bullshit Trophy" to Greenpeace and two other organizations for their contribution to the preservation of poverty in developing countries. Mitra called the three groups parasites which "prey on the blood of the poor." (Link via Instapundit.)
Frequent flyers are backlashing against policy changes at USAirways. My prediction: if other airlines don't follow suit with the changes then USAirways will have to rescind them.

Thursday, August 29, 2002
Instapundit noted a Washington Post story that the two dumb "security questions" which haven't stopped a terrorist in 16 years of being asked are being eliminated (I noted it last Thursday). Glenn Reynolds asks whether my Impeach Norm Mineta bumper stickers are having an effect....
More Frequent Flyer Program Devaluation. United will increase the cost of 500-mile upgrade certificates for Premiers from $125 for Premiers to $200 and non-premiers to $325. They will increase the number of miles it takes for upgrades as well:
  • - domestic - Y/B fares - 8000 miles
  • - domestic - other fares - 15,000 miles
  • - international - Y/B fares - 15,000 miles
  • - international - C/M/H fares - 30,000 miles
The TSA's Air Marshall program is facing a flurry of resignations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
The TSA is paying double for security screeners compared to what the airlines paid when security was private.. and in many cases these are the same screeners. The government is paying for screeners that don't even show up to work.
    The government was supposed to negotiate prices and terms with the screening contractors after taking over the contracts six months ago, but hasn't done so yet, the inspector general said. The TSA instead awarded "letter contracts" to the companies, which don't spell out detailed terms.
Instapundit links to this picture and this picture which encapsulate the status quo of TSA airport security.
Darwin Award nominee. A man whose fuel gauge was broken used a cigarette lighter to illuminate his fuel tank in order to see if he had any gas left. He blew up the car.
More Room Thoughout Coach endorses Gronk for Senate.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002
United is beginning to pull a few benefits from their top-tier elites. No more special 1K rooms (for those who fly over 100,000 miles a year). No more free same-day changes confirmed in advance for Premier Executive (50,000 miles a year) and 1K (100,000 miles a year) flyers. Will United follow USAirways lead cutting benefits?

The strange thing is that United's announcement is a cut for their best customers. USAirways announced was a major cut for everyone except their most lucrative customers.
Turns out that I'll be on the Mary Starrett show on KPDQ (Portland, Oregon) at 2:30pm Pacific time tomorrow for a 30 minute segment. I can't seem to find a link off of their site for streaming audio. though.
Stay away from USAirways. They've made several policy changes that make it difficult for me to fly them.
  • If you don't use a nonrefundable ticket, you can't just save it and apply the value to a future purchase (less a change fee). Instead, you now have to make your change before the original flight leaves or you lose all value from the ticket.
  • Discounted fares will no longer count towards elite status beginning January 1, 2003.
  • Standby will no longer be permitted on nonrefundable tickets.
  • No more free alcoholic beverages in coach on transatlantic flights.
Frankly, I'll just be choosing someone else to fly -- period.
Here's a Survey from USAirways about ex-Germany travel. It says it offers 500 miles, but it doesn't have a place to enter a mileage account number.
Looks like I'll be on the Mary Starrett show on KPDQ (Portland, Oregon) at 2:30pm Pacific time to discuss Underperformin' Normin and the Impeach Norm Mineta bumper sticker phenomenon.

Monday, August 26, 2002
Northwest has a new promotion that can earn you up to 200,000 miles for your travel. It's really geared to travelers paying higher fares, but there's a few thousand miles here and there for the rest of us. Head off to the link, though, because it does require signup.
15 Minutes of Training: the TSA violates federal law?

The Transportation Security Administration's "elite" baggage screening team -- which travels from airport to airport as the TSA takes over security -- started work after only 15 minutes of training. They weren't tested or certified on the equipment. This despite a requirement in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act which requires all "security screeners" have a minimum 40 hours classroom and 60 hours on-the-job training... which would be more than enough to learn to operate the machines, but probably not enough to learn to detect explosives.

Mineta's TSA is clearly not ready for primetime. They aim to deploy more than 50,000 federal passenger and baggage screeners and install thousands of luggage-screening machines at U.S. airports before year-end -- screeners who are apparently less qualified than the private workers they are replacing.

Saturday, August 24, 2002
Someone needs to tell this to Norm Mineta.
More on discounted rental cars.
  • First, do a search on Orbitz because it will do a fairly comprehensive survey of different companies and different types of cars quickly. This will ballpark a price for you that you will then want to beat.

  • Then go to Avis.com. There are a few tricks to get better deals. First, as I've mentioned before, you can use the Amateur Sports Assistance Program discount (which works out to 20% most of the time for me, but sometimes as much as 50%). Just enter D002807 in the "Avis Worldwide Discount (AWD)" field. You get a discount, and Avis gives credits for free rental days to Olympic hopefuls. That's the most useful standy code. However, some other useful ones to try are K753401 ($25/day on a compact car via British Airways -- just saved me $70 on a 4 day rental in Fresno), A108303 (Costco), and A076600 (Compuserve travel forum).

  • While at Avis.com, you should also use coupons. In the coupon code, try each of the following: GUGA001 (free tank of gas on a weekly rental, from AARP), TUGA443 (free weekend day), UUAA195 (free upgrade), T844211 (% discount). Your quoted rate won't change -- coupons are independent of the Internet price.

  • Now that you have the best deal you can find (and have booked it, since it can be cancelled), from Orbitz or Avis or Sidestep (which you should have installed after my last post), you can go to Priceline. It's a shot in the dark -- if you bid lower than your best price and Priceline accepts, you've saved money and you can cancel your existing reservation. If priceline turns you down, you still have the best available deal.

Friday, August 23, 2002
A brief discourse on how to find the best travel deals.
  • Sign up for the automatic fare notification services offered by Travelocity and Expedia. You tell them what cities to watch for, and they'll email you when the price changes. Sometimes price changes only last for a few hours, so it's nice to have someone else on the lookout for you. Also, when you look for one of the fares they've found, they'll present you with a calendar of availability. That's nice because an airfare is only good if you can get it -- and these services will help you get it.

  • Check for special airfare deals at Digital City. The link here is to the Washington, DC list -- but you can go there and switch to another city. They track deals better than almost anyone.

  • Also check out Travelocity's Dream Maps. You enter a city and a price range, and Dream Maps will show you on a map where in the world you can go.

  • Another great list of inexpensive airfares can be found at Smarterliving.com.

  • I have installed SideStep onto my computer. Every time I search for airfares (or hotels), SideStep knows. It pulls the information out of my search and sends it to each of the individual airline websites. It's much more efficient than going to each airline separately, and with SideStep I know I've found the best internet-only deals.

  • I book most of my travel with Orbitz. The strength of this site isn't what the antitrust zealots claim -- that they have access to inventories noone else does (although to some extent that's probably true). The real strength is in their mathematics. Their search algorithms are better than the other sites. For complex itineraries, Orbitz pieces flight segments together in ways that noone else thinks of to come up with better prices. I also still use the beta test version of Orbitz because it has some features that aren't available on the main site.

  • If the price of your airline tickets go down after you've already booked them, you're not out of luck! Just call the airline and ask for a voucher in the amount of the difference. Most airlines do this without hesitation.

  • Once I've bought my tickets, I naturally want to fly first class. Regardless of the class of service, though, I still want the best seat -- so I consult the SeatGuru.

  • Then, when I need a hotel room, I check out Hotel Discounts.com. I also go to Bidding for Travel.com which reveals the secrets behind priceline. People post their winning and losing bids, so that you know what priceline will accept in advance. They also build a hotel list, so you know what hotel you'll get in advance. Make sure to reach their Hotel Bidding FAQ first, though, because it will teach you all of the ins and outs. I frequently stay at the best 4* hotels around the country for less than $50 a night...

  • Then there's the rental car discounts...

Thursday, August 22, 2002
We're closing in on 3000 unique visitors today. We're at 2900 with just over an hour and a half to go -- but we've slowed down to 40 or so in the last hour. I think we're just going to miss it. It's sure been exciting to see all of you -- hope you liked it, and that some of you will come back!
When United and USAirways announced their codeshare agreement, I said that there would be a change to the United-Delta relationship. Today, Continental and Northwest (which already codeshare) announced an agreement to also codeshare with Delta, effectively adding CO/NW and international partner KLM to Delta/Air France and the SkyTeam alliance.
The "security questions" will end. Travelers won't be asked whether they packed their bags themselves or whether the bags have been outside of their control. In 16 years, these questions have never foiled a terrorist. They're silly, but they're also non-intrusive. Let's focus on the real problems that need reform!
I didn't have much sympathy for the aforementioned pilot who violated restricted airspace. I could see that it's important to keep small planes away from the President.

Then I read further in the article:
  • The no-fly perimeter around the President's Waco ranch ranges from 6 miles (when the President isn't there) to 30 miles and anywhere in between. It is rarely apparent to pilots in advance just what the perimeter is.
  • Officials expect a violation nearly every other day while Bush is in Texas.
  • Since 9/11, the government has added 35 restricted areas -- none of which are depicted on FAA aeuonautical charts.
According to Sitemeter, this site has gone over 2,000 unique visitors for the day and it's not even 2pm. This is the first day we've topped even 1,000. Shows what an Instapundit hit and a link from a column at FoxNews will do for you! :)
Reader Dean Cameron pointed me to the Bill of Rights - Security Edition -- the Bill of Rights printed on metal. From the site:
    You need to get used to offering up the bill of rights for inspection and government workers need to get used to deciding if you'll be allowed to keep the Bill of Rights with you when you travel.
I don't know any more about the site or the proprietors than that -- but it tickled my funny bone.
A reader writes:
    I'm thrilled to find the impeach Mineta stickers (through today's Fox News Online story "Revenge of the Tweezer People.") My next act will be to send you some dough for several stickers. I'd like to see those all over the place!

    I've absolutely had it with airports. I recently drove from DC to Indiana and to Atlanta, and found those trips much less stressful than being wand raped by some security drone who's not even fit to flip burgers.
Lots of readers are writing similar things. I agree with Instapundit: there may be a sleeper political issue here. The Dems won't attack the only Democrat in the cabinet, so there may not be pressure on the Republicans to fire Mineta -- but an independent (or at least a non-incumbent) could really make something out of this. One win on this issue and Karl Rove could get scared enough to do the right thing.
Another conspiracy theory. United's bankruptcy threat may be strategic bluster. I'm becoming increasingly of the opinion that the talk of bankruptcy is a tool more than an assessment of the business climate.

United's employees are the biggest shareholder block. A bankruptcy would liquidate their shares. Current and past employees would see a significant chunk of their net worth wiped out. That's a pretty good threat to use in order to wring wage concessions out of an employee group: "give up some wages or we'll wipe out your nest egg." Not only that, a bankruptcy proceeding would likely result in an end to the employee representation on the United board. Without those threats, there's not much of a compelling reason for the employees to bargain while they're under contract. With those threats, there's a good change that employee groups will agree to lower United's labor costs.

A threat of bankruptcy carries the added benefit of helping make the case for the government for a $1.8 billion loan guarantee. By arguing that they're on the verge of bankruptcy, they make the case that they need assistance more. The government will be hard pressed to deny the funds and be blamed for the nation's second largest airline entering chapter 11.

United has $2.7 billion in cash and $3 billion in aircraft that it owns outright. It's losing money in a way that isn't sustainable, but this isn't a company that can't make payroll. It needs to lower its cost and it needs to shift its business model to bring in more revenue. They may well throw themselves into chapter 11 to reduce their costs -- but, I believe, only if the strategy of using the threat as a stalking horse for concessions and loans doesn't pan out.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002
My 250 free Continental miles just posted. 7 days isn't bad at all.
Just forwarded to me: The Lawsuit Machine.
Instapundit's FOXNews.com column features More Room Throughout Coach and the Impeach Norm Mineta bumper stickers.
This editorial from the Savannah Morning News makes the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that all the stories about the incompetence of Mineta's TSA must be a disinformation campaign to confuse terrorists and lull them into false bravado.
    There was the security screener at Los Angeles International Airport who confiscated a 2-inch toy gun that belonged to a G.I. Joe doll carried by a child. This followed a report that government testers had successfully smuggled REAL weapons past security checkpoints at major airports one out of every four attempts.

    Days later, a mother carrying an infant through security at Kennedy International in New York was forced to drink the breast milk she had pumped into bottles for the baby's flight. Despite the fact that drinking directly from the bottle could contaminate the milk with germs and make it undrinkable for the child, the security guard refused the mother's request to dab some of the liquid on her arm and lick it off to prove it wasn't some kind of explosive or corrosive agent. The guard cited federal policy.

    ...Hiring standards [for air marshalls] have reportedly been lowered so much, one disillusioned marshal compared the job to "mall security." According to USA Today, applicants don't have to pass a difficult marksmanship course that used to be the critical test for the program.

    Plus, many new hires allegedly were given guns and badges and put aboard flights before extensive background checks were completed.

    The irony of that is that the same federal agency responsible for such lax standards for marshals (the Federal Aviation Administration) also opposes arming airline pilots on the grounds that they can't be trusted to responsibly use firearms. Never mind that the qualifications for being a pilot of a commerical jetliner are far more stringent than what the FAA apparently has instituted for marshals.

    Marshals complain that they must adhere to such a strict dress code that these supposedly undercover agents are easy to spot among regular passengers. That makes them potential targets to unarmed terrorists who could gang up on a marshal, grab his weapon and commandeer a plane.
And then the kicker:
    If that's Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta's idea of tougher security measures, he deserves a one-way ticket out of town.
Impeach Norm Mineta!
Starbucks is adding wireless internet to over 1000 stores. Your first day of use is free. This could change my life forever.
Aviation lunacy isn't just limited to the TSA. Crain's Chicago Business reports that United airlines may face a fine of up to $1.5 million for failure to replace a nut on 3 engines in 1999. Why is this lunacy?
  • If there's a safety issue at United, it's 3 years old. This suggests FAA isn't doing a very good job at finding and resolving current problems.
  • There were no accidents or engine failures as a result of the nut. United replaced them. The paperwork is in order.

United should have replaced the nut with a stronger one as dictated by the FAA. Maybe they should have done it faster. But this is three years old and not a current safety problem.

Why is the FAA examining such old records? Why aren't they more concerned with guaranteeing current safety? Why is the FAA sending off vigorous press releases -- when apparently they need to be spending their time clearing up a three year backlog reviewing paperwork? We want answers!

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
AmericaWest has a new policy that lets you buy space available first class upgrades from any fare from $50-$200 depending on the length of the flight.
The New York Post reports on a lost note in a taxicab which may outline the coming executive reshuffling at United Airlines.
Prosperity For All: things are better than they've ever been.
    “For many people, owning a home defines the American Dream, and 68 percent of families now do -- the highest percentage on record. Three-quarters of Americans drive their own cars. The vast majority of households possess color televisions (98 percent), videocassette recorders (94 percent), microwave ovens (90 percent), frost-free refrigerators (87 percent), washing machines (83 percent), and clothes dryers (75 percent). In the past decade or so, computers and cell phones have become commonplace. . . . 135 million Americans now own mobile telephones.”
-- from "Off the Books" in the August 2002 issue of Reason. (Link via Dan Pink's Just One Thing.)

Monday, August 19, 2002
The Comedian is covering the story with two posts on the failing air marshall program and impending airport delays due to the federalization of security. Check it out.
Airline Bladder Rule Must Go So We Can, Too. From two weeks back -- I missed this call for repeal of the American Bladder Control Testing Act of 2001, the rule that says you may not get up to pee during the last half our before landing at Washington's National Airport. Well, you and I can't, but Representative Sanford Bishop can...
I mentioned to a colleague this afternoon that I had almost cleared enough profit from the Impeach Norm Mineta bumper stickers to buy off the blogspot ad. Then I get an email this evening from a reader (and blogger whom I admire) that he had bought the ad off for me. Thanks. I owe you one (or twelve...)!
The new head of the Transportation Security Administration James M. Loy (Mineta is his boss) expressed no desire to undo any of the security changes -- despite the fact that:[Edited to add: welcome Instapundit readers. Check out the rest of the blog -- you'll find things like giveaways of first class upgrades, airline club passes, and drink chits -- not to mention tips on how to earn your own free travel.]
The chairman of Hooters is considering buying bankrupt Vanguard airlines. He's paying $50,000 per week for the next three weeks to pay a skeleton staff while he examines the company's books and decides if he wants to buy. A newly formed company called Hooters Air Inc. will make the payments. I bet they'll have a great frequent flyer program. Stay tuned to More Room Throughout Coach in order to keep abreast...
Can we at least take Norm Mineta's name off of the San Jose airport?
Frommer's has a fairly decent overview of playing the miles and points game. Here's part one and part two.
United is pulling out of E-Rewards, the e-mail survey program, effective August 31st. E-Rewards will still be offering Delta and Hertz discounts, Hilton HHonors points, and Blockbuster coupons. Personally, I valued the United discounts the most, so I've redeemed everything that I had.
With USAirways in bankruptcy and United next, it's time for all of the "I told you so" comments. Well, here's my "I should have been able to tell you so." Why should I have seen it with greater clarity? Because of a change in the insurance industry. Insurance companies are generally pretty savvy. As a class (abstracting away from particular insurance companies), they are very good at analyzing risk. After September 11th, the following was inserted into many travel policies:
    We will not pay a claim that arises because of any of the following:
    You incur any costs or losses arising from the failure of any travel agent, tour operator, accommodation provider, airline or other carrier, car rental agency or any other travel or tourism services provider to provide services or accommodation due to their Insolvency or the Insolvency of any person, company or organization they deal with.
They were saying that a bankruptcy was pretty likely, so they weren't going to cover the costs. Seems prescient now. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Sunday, August 18, 2002
Another More Room Throughout Coach Giveaway! Just e-mail an entry including your name and address. I will pick one winner who will get their choice of: (1) a confirmed first class upgrade on Alaska Airlines, (2) two drink coupons on Continental or United, or (3) a USAirways club pass. Winner will be picked at random on Friday, August 30th.
Every Sunday afternoon I check out Punditwatch, a blog which summarizes that day's political shows.

Saturday, August 17, 2002
Travelers are choosing cars over jets. (Link via Instapundit.) That was exactly my explanation in an earlier post. The Transportation Security Administration is making travel more costly and time consuming, and travelers drive instead of fly for trips under 500 miles. USAirways, which serves a large chunk of these short routes up and down the East Coast, has been impacted most -- and that's a big reason they're in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Friday, August 16, 2002
It turns out that the government requirement for airline passengers to show an ID may not exist.

Airlines began requiring IDs as a way of preventing tickets from being resold, in order to maintain their pricing structure.

They are now required to request identification, but it isn't clear that any rules forbid transporting a passenger who refuses to identify himself or herself.

One procedure which has been used -- but not verified vis a vis a federal rule -- is to search any passenger unwilling to show ID.

Thursday, August 15, 2002
Pad's Scratch Pad links to More Room Throughout Coach, describing this site as "rants, raves, and upgrades." I couldn't have said it better myself.
Got an e-mail from United Airlines that said in the event of a bankruptcy filing, "you will continue to reap the benefits of Mileage Plus(R) membership. WE WILL HONOR MILES PREVIOUSLY EARNED IN MILEAGE PLUS, AND YOU WILL CONTINUE TO ACCRUE MILES FOR TRAVEL ON UNITED AND OUR MILEAGE PLUS PARTNERS."

Now, promises are promises, and bankruptcy is by definition a way to discharge promises. However, it would be a silly business decision to disavow accrued miles because they would take away the accumulated incentive for their best customers to continue to fly the airline. Miles are not just a liability -- they are the single most successful marketing tool ever devised.

First, miles aren't a true liability -- they are a commitment to give away for free seats that otherwise go unsold (and they really are the surplus seats, in the limit -- because airlines choose how many free seats to allocate to any given flight).

Second, there would be tremendous resentment against any liquidation of mileage.

Third, miles encourage repeat customers. The people with the most miles are generally the best customers. Most airline revenue comes from their smallest group of most frequent customers.

Fourth, historically miles are picked up by an acquiring or surviving carrier. That's because the surviving carrier wants the loyal flyer base. TWA frequent flyers were acquired by American. Similarly, Pan Am and Eastern flyers had their miles honored by the airlines which picked their bones.

Miles can evaporate, but that's generally when an airline simply ceases total operations, a la Midway in their first two bankruptcies or Australia's Ansett. United is different. It's losing money but it has assets that generate revenue. Lots of revenue. No miles = less revenue. Simple, really.
The INS and Border Patrol are having a hard time attracting and retaining personnel the Transportation Security Administration will pay more for the same people. (Link via The Comedian.)

Now, maybe the TSA needs the best people more than the INS and border patrol although I doubt it. Of course, they're not even getting competent people.
Northwest bonus miles. New WorldPerks members, who enroll online using source code VP2P, will earn 4,000 bonus miles for their first qualifying roundtrip. (Enroll prior to travel but not later than Dec. 31, 2002, and travel must be completed by Feb. 13, 2003.)

Existing members earn 1,000 bonus miles by registering online with registration number 5075 by Dec. 31 and complete travel by Feb. 13.

Either way, register here.
Delta and American Express introduce a new business credit card. The new Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card offers 10,000 miles when enrolling and 5,000 more miles (which count toward elite status) when using the card for the first time. Every year spending reaches $25,000, a bonus of 10,000 base miles will be added to the user's account. Plus, there's a free companion certificate awarded each year the card is renewed. Many charges earn double miles and there's no mileage cap on annual earnings.

The card's annual fee is $135 which is less than the standard AmEx fee and Membership Rewards fee. Apply by calling 1-800-NOW-OPEN.
USATODAY reports that the Air Marshall program is in disarray. (Link via Instapundit.)

This is no longer an elite corp, since standards have been lowered to meet hiring quotas. The air marshalls themselves believe the situation is unsafe. Air marshalls are clearly not an alternative to arming pilots. From the article:
    Hiring standards for marshals added since Sept. 11 have been lowered dramatically, sources say. No longer must applicants pass a difficult marksmanship course that used to be the make-or-break test for the program. In addition, many new hires were given guns and badges and put aboard flights before extensive background checks were completed.
Another money quote:
    "In May, for 3 1/2 weeks, they forgot about me and 15 guys in the office," said one marshal. "We sat [around] watching kung fu movies."

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
TAPPED demonstrates its bonafides by calling out the Dems for pork, pointing out a little exchange between two Democratic Senators:
    "Paul, let's talk pork," Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said to Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) in a candid exchange on the Senate subway before the spring recess earlier this year. "We like you and we want you back."
The inventor of the frisbee died. His ashes will be molded into memorial flying discs to be given to friends and family and to those who make a donation in his memory. (via the Frosty Mug Revolution.)

What a month. I was already mourning the passing of the inventor of clumping cat litter and white out.
Tony Woodlief writes an open letter to the Quaker Oats company. Wilford Brimley must be mighty uncomfortable.
An Instapundit reader doubs that the grounding of all aircraft on 9/11 was necessary to stop potential terrorist attacks.
Today is the biggest traffic day yet for Impeach Underperformin' Norman. I'm also seeing the graphic on a variety of sites.

I got to thinking this afternoon about the Impeach Mineta meme. It's a simple slogan that "fits on a bumper sticker" so it's easy to understand. It's easy to pass on. It's represents a set of ideas incredibly concisely. I'm just starting to realize how much that kind of packaging matters.

I've been railing about the transportation security agency, and our nation's approach to security, for a long time and falling upon deaf ears. All of the policy studies and detailed analyses fail. Now, I think the analysis has to be there to undergird the marketing -- I'm not sure that the marketing is sustainable without a strong argument -- but the marketing really is key.
Tremendous thanks go to Instapundit for introducing so many of you to this site -- and more importantly for keeping the pressure on in the fight for real security at airports -- that takes both actual threats and our liberties seriously.
The current issue of The Atlantic has an outstanding piece on security -- airline security, computer security, and how to think about protecting ourselves from terrorism. The bottom line is that we need systems that "fail badly." It makes no sense to have a security checkpoint where if something bad passes through the system shuts down. We need to strengthen cockpit doors, arm pilots, and create sundry other redundant systems.
JetBlue is offering new members of their frequent flyer program 10 points (10% of a free ticket) for signing up.
I had a Sand in the Gears moment at the local Giant grocery last night. My girlfriend asked me to pick up ice cream on the way home. A simple task that was about to become not so simple.

I picked up a package of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey (let's leave their politics out of this -- we're talking about ice cream, chocolate, and banana here!). I walked to the front of the store and found three checkout lines open, each one with at least five customers ahead of me. I got in the express line designated for shoppers with ten items or less and found that it was being worked by the store manager. I advanced through that line... and I was next.

The store manager said, "I'm sorry, this line is closed."

My reply, "You've done a wonderful job of identifying the problem statement."

Store manager: "Well, what do you want me to do about it?"

My reply, "Normally I would charge a consulting fee for offering workflow management advice, but in this case you might consider staying open or bringing in some extra help off the floor."

The rest of the customers waiting in their three lines broke out in applause. The manager sold me my ice cream. I felt like I had won a minor victory. And that I needed to share it with you, my loyal readers.
The bumper stickers are in. I'll be getting them into the mail tomorrow.
Residents of FL, IL, NY, OH, PA, and VA earn 250 Continental Onepass miles for an online insurance quote.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002
If it weren't so pathetic, it would be funny. In the name of airport security, Orlando airport is introducing a security scanner that shows naked images of the people who pass through it.
American Airlines cuts 7,000 jobs and reduces flights. Will United be far behind? Will Norm Mineta shoulder some of the blame? ... Developing ...
Our nation's airlines are in dire financial straits, and the Transportation Security Agency makes their problems worse.

The Dow Jones Transportation Index is down 13% over the last year, and the nation's two biggest airlines lost more than $3 billion combined in 2001. USAirways, the nation's sixth largest carrier, entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.

USAirways is a high cost carrier which relies on business travel up and down the East Coast. (Their route map is made up of short distance travel throughout the east coast, with plenty of takeoffs and landings relative to flight miles and utilization of high cost airports.)

The economy is suppressing business travel, but so is the hassle (delay, cost, aggravation) of airline security. This has hurt USAirways especially, because their profitable routes are the New York-DC-Boston shuttle which has given way to train travel, and hops in and out of small airports up and down the Eastern seaboard has given way to the automobile.

United, USAirways' new codeshare partner, went from losing $10 million a day down to $5 million a day after cutting routes, schedules, food service, and wringing concessions from labor. They are still fighting a battle for business travelers, and the Transportation Security Agency has stood in the way almost every step of the way.

When the TSA took over airport security checkpoints, they told the airlines that they could no longer offer priority lines for the airlines' most frequent customers because of "equity." They told the airlines that their bread and butter customers had to waste more time in lines, and they began chasing those customers away. The administration relented, but in a haphazard way. Now, from one week to the next, there's no telling whether there will be an express line for frequent customers.

Most harrowing, it's never clear what security procedures actually are. It varies tremendously from one station to another, and from one day to the next.

It comes as no surprise, then, that the only airlines making money are the low cost carriers who specialize in leisure travel and customers who are used to several hour waits.
Check this out and scroll down to July 2nd -- airport screeners are still missing 25% of guns, knives, etc.
Following on the heals of SpiritAir, National Airlines is offering $1 flights to Las Vegas on September 11th (with First Class fares from $41-$201). Better hurry...

Monday, August 12, 2002
I've been spending my day answering queries on Norm Mineta and haven't been blogging with my usual voice or with my usual offers. If you're new to this site, dig down into the archives because posts on most days include great ways to earn free travel and fly first class...
Old charges are new again. Wall Street Journal reporter Thomas Petzinger's book on the business of the airline industry carries an interesting story about Norm Mineta (p. 93 of the hardcover). Mineta was a swing vote to deliver airline deregulation in the house. So far, so good -- you'd think I'd admire the man! However, it seems he sold his vote to Ted Kennedy is exchange for Kennedy headlining a fundraiser for him in California.
Even TAPPED gets into the act -- linking to Instapundit who links to me on this Mineta thing...
An otherwise excellent USA Today piece on the air traffic control blow-by-blow of September 11, 2001 perpetuates the myth that Norm Mineta was decisive in grounding all the aircraft in the country. The decision had already been made by Monte Belger, the no. 2 official at the FAA. Mineta spreads the myth, but it rings false.
USAirways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They got a $900 federal loan guarantee and employee wage concessions. They still need to wriggle out of aircraft leases and other obligations.

As far as I can tell, this bankruptcy is not a death knell. Frankly, I'll keep flying them. First, because their partnership with United will help them going forward. Second, because not only did they get $500 million debtor-in-possession financing, but they got a new $200 million equity investment from Dave Bonderman's Texas Pacific Group. In exchange, they pick up 38% ownership. This is a shrewd LBO firm. They turned around Continental Airlines, and won't be sinking $200 million down a rat hole. N

ow, it's possible that USAirways will never prosper, and Texas Pacific Group will just make all or most of its money in management fees -- but that will happen over several years. No reason to jump ship on the airline now.

Sunday, August 11, 2002
Just click here to purchase an "Impeach Norm Mineta" bumper sticker:
Two new sweepstakes.
Hyatt is offering 50,000 points in their Gold Passport program for meeting planners (book 10 or more rooms, have a catered event, hold a banquet). If this would be of help to you, e-mail me and I'll dig up more info.
I've broken down and done it. Impeach Norm Mineta bumper stickers are on the way. I should be shipping them by the end of the week.

Just $2 covers the bumper sticker and domestic U.S. shipping (via USPS first class mail). As you can see, I'm out to make a point, not to make money. As a result, I need to keep this as simple for myself as possible. I'm accepting payment only via Paypal (send money to gleff@gmu.edu). All sales final.

Get them while they're hot!

[Edited to say: Welcome Instapundit visitors! I'd appreciate it lots if you would check out the front page of my site I'm even giving away free first class upgrades and airline drink coupons. Check it out.]

Saturday, August 10, 2002
I called for the impeachment of Norm Mineta back on 7/18. Instapundit thinks we need bumper stickers. A quick search suggests they can be had quickly and inexpensively: 250 @ 50 cents apiece.. or one at a time for $4.95. Any bloggers out there want to take up the challenge? If not, I may do it.
Check out the War On Drugs Clock -- and see just how much we're spending and how many people are being sent to jail for a product that's only harmful when the government criminalizes it. Time to shut down the prohibition-industrial complex.
Laura Crane is just as sick of the joke of airport security and she has the same site design that I do, too! (Link via Instapundit.)
I don't know how I missed this a couple of weeks back. A man sued four fast food chains, claiming he became obese from eating their food.
    ``They said `100 percent beef.' I thought that meant it was good for you,'' Barber told Newsday. ``I thought the food was OK.''

    ``Those people in the advertisements don't really tell you what's in the food,'' he said. ``It's all fat, fat and more fat. Now I'm obese.'"
The U.N. promotes human rights abroad.:

    A DAMNING dossier sent by Kathryn Bolkovac to her employers, detailing UN workers’ involvement in the sex trade in Bosnia, cost the American her job with the international police force.
    She was sacked after disclosing that UN peacekeepers went to nightclubs where girls as young as 15 were forced to dance naked and have sex with customers, and that UN personnel and international aid workers were linked to prostitution rings in the Balkans.


    During her time in Bosnia as an investigator, Ms Bolkovac, 41, uncovered evidence of girls who refused to have sex being beaten and raped in bars by their pimps while peacekeepers stood and watched. She discovered that one UN policeman who was supposed to be investigating the sex trade paid £700 to a bar owner for an underage girl who he kept captive in his apartment to use in his own prostitution racket.


    Ms Bolkovac said that she witnessed frightened young women given exotic dance costumes by club owners, who told them they had to perform sex acts on customers, including UN personnel, to pay for the outfits.

    “The women who refused were locked in rooms and food and outside contact was withheld for days or weeks. After this time they were told to dance naked on table tops and sit with clients, recommending the person buy a bottle of champagne for DM200, which includes a room and ‘escort’.

    “If the women still refuse to perform sex acts with the customers, they are beaten and raped in the rooms by the bar owners and their associates. They are told if they go to the police they will be arrested for prostitution and being an illegal immigrant.”

    Within days of reporting her findings in October 2000 she was demoted and six months later was sacked.
European Union officials have a new perk -- subsidized Viagra.
The dictator of Turkmenistan wants to rename all of the months after celebrities, starting with himself.

Friday, August 09, 2002
Get a free Lord of the Rings VHS or DVD when you test drive a Kia.

Thursday, August 08, 2002
El Al sent a letter to inform Leah Rabin that her frequent flyer points are about to expire and they were terminating her membership. The wife of the former Israeli Prime Minister died more than a year ago.
Excellent article from Smarterliving.com on online shopping programs which award frequent flyer miles.
Airtran offers business class upgrades to everyone. For $35 you can upgrade on a first-come, first-serve space available basis at check-in.

What's more, very few people seem to know this -- coach is often packed with business class nearly empty!
Free elite status. You may recall from my earlier posts that the way you get treated well up in the air is by becoming one of an airline's "elite members" -- something that most airlines award with 25,000 miles of travel in a year.

Continental is actually offering "trial" elite status. Specifically, they are offering "silver elite" status through November 15, 2002. All you have to do is call 1-800-554-5522 and ask for promo code "GG ONE RA2M26". Plus, this status will be extended through February, 2004 if you fly 3 roundtrips before the end of promo period and they'll give you "Gold" status if you fly 6 roundtrips.

There's only one hitch -- this came as a targeted mailing. That means you may not technically be eligible -- but folks are having success signing up whether they got the mailing or not. You might call and be told no -- but if you are, just call back and ask again and odds on you'll be told yes.

So what does Silver status get you?
* priority check-in and priority boarding (don't have to wait in the usual lines)
* automatic upgrades to first class based on available space
* bonus miles

What does Gold status get you?
* same as Silver, but more bonus miles and higher priority for your upgrades.

Might as well sign up!
I'm a bit late with this story, but I still thought it worth mentioning.

I've always thought that the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II was an abomination. First, because the massive loss of civilian life and ensuing human suffering was incredible, and second because it looked quite clear that the U.S. would have won the war anyway -- so it wasn't justified as a way of saving other lives.

Now, there's new evidence that Japan was close to developing its own atomic bomb.

This actually makes me rethink the whole issue a bit. I'm still not comfortable with the U.S. decision to drop the bomb - and to the extent that Americans were unaware of the Japanese progress, their actions may not be any less morally reprehensible -- but ultimately it may have saved enough lives to balance out the equation a little more.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002
United Mileageplus Dining members (and if you aren't one you should be -- it's free.. and lots of other airlines offer the same deal) earn 500 bonus miles automatically for eating at three participating restaurants by October 31st.

[Edited to note that the link above for 500 bonus miles doesn't work unless you're first logged in at My Mileageplus. That's okay -- just take my word for it. You don't need to register for the promotion if you're already registered for Mileageplus Dining.]

Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Flights on SpiritAir are free on September 11, 2002. Book now.
Register for Double Miles through September 30, 2002 at the WorldPerks Mall.
A man is suing the doctor who circumcised him as a baby, even though his mother consented and the doctor didn't flub the procedure.
Northwest Airlines takes jab at United's bid for federal loan guarantee. United has $2.7 billion in cash and $3 billion in aircraft that it owns outright. Northwest just raised $750 million in bonds back by their aircraft. Is there any reason United can't do the same? United wants a subsidized loan of $1.8 billion from the federal government, but the argument about lack of access to capital markets seems weak -- especially when Delta has recently raised $3.5 billion on its own.
Check those airline itineraries!. A British couple bought tickets from London to Sydney over the internet -- only they wound up in Sydney, Nova Scotia instead of Sydney, Australia. Their first clue was when they were asked to transfer to a turboprop in Halifax.
Deep Thoughts is the next winner in the More Room Throughout Coach free miles and free upgrades giveaway.
USAirways is offering 2,500 bonus miles to AAA members with their next flight by October 31 -- but you have to register (so click on the link!).
A humorous take on the pledge of allegiance by Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post. (Link via The Volokh Conspiracy.

The pledge itself, while only the "under God" part is truly at issue, really is a silly thing. Young people recite patriotic indoctrination without really having any idea what it means.

A law professor whom I admire, John Hasnas, tells the story of "how he became a libertarian." In kindergarten, while being told to recite the pledge, he wanted to know "who is Richard Stands, and why are we pledging to him?"

("And to the Republic, for Richard Stands, one nation...")

Monday, August 05, 2002
Military pilots are given amphetamines and sleeping pills before and after missions, respectively. This flying under the influence may be linked to recent friendly-fire incidents.
Mourning. The inventor of clumping cat litter and white-out passed away.
A new study finds that more men than women are too stressed to have sex. Great. That just leaves more for me. -ed.

Sunday, August 04, 2002
Airfare arbitrage. Frequent travelers know that sometimes different websites (and for that matter, websites versus calling an airline directly) will provide different prices for the exact same flight. What I never quite realized before today was that different countries' versions of the same website may price differently as well.

I did a bit of experimentation with United's web site today. United has a whole bunch of local sites: United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Singapore -- just to name a few.

I tried pricing out some itineraries on different United website, and I got different prices. (Naturally, each site priced in its local currency, but I used Expedia's currency converter to normalize prices into US dollars.)

One example: Los Angeles --> Sydney --> Los Angeles, October 10 outbound and October 20 return:
  • United States: US$1022.25
  • Australia: US$1,776.58
  • Great Britain: US$1597.96. However, LA --> San Francisco --> Sydney --> San Francisco --> LA prices at US $1025.
  • Canada: US$1619.48
Another example: Hong Kong --> Singapore --> Hong Kong:
  • Hong Kong: US$208
  • United States: US$ 936.14
  • Singapore: US$ 185.00

Guess which site I'd pick in each case? US in the former, and Singapore in the latter. The confusion of airline pricing continues!
Update on the United Visa. The 15,000 mile signup bonus is good. Very good. However, there is a targeted offer out there for 20,000 miles. Instructions on the mailing say to call 1.888.763.7377 or send back the form in the mail. You might call and try asking for it, even though it appears to be a promotion valid for those who receive the offer. The code on the bottom of the mailing is BUC11309, and the code on the form which is to be sent back to the bank is LAC23925. Offer expires 9/16/02.
The United Visa is finally an attractive credit card. There's an offer for a 15,000 mile signup bonus. That, combined with double miles on all purchases means that you should probably get one right away. You don't even have to fly -- you just have to put $5000 on the card in the next couple of months (or spend $833 at specific restaurants and charge the meals to the card) -- and you will have a free domestic roundtrip ticket.
Swaziland spends a quarter of its annual budget on a private jet for for its King, and uses international aid funds for the down payment. Millions of this country's citizens face famine due to government policies.
Sand in the Gears leads a revolt against airport security. If enough of us did this, we might be able to overthrow a silly regime that doesn't protect us in the least, causes massive consternation among the traveling public, and is doing serious damage to an airline industry which is losing billions of dollars a quarter. Tony may have just found a way out of this recession -- taking our economy and our dignity into our own hands.

Thursday, August 01, 2002
Police are investigating a six-times-a-night couple for keeping their neighbors up all night. Sorry about that. We'll try to keep it down next time. -ed
You thought Enron was bad? The European Union's budget is "massively open to fraud" because it "doesn't have an accounting system." (Link via Instapundit.)
Thanks for the link, Quare. In noting the link, Quare asks what in the world the title More Room Throughout Coach has to do with "Free Miles and Free Markets." The answer, it turns out, makes plenty of sense...
Timatollah is the first winner in the More Room Throughout Coach free miles and free first class upgrades giveaway. Stay tuned for more winners.



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Some of My Writings:

Thoughts on Academic Debate
-May '99 Rostrum

Thoughts on the War on Terror
-Winter 2002 Doublethink

Want to Know More About Liberty?

The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner
The Man Versus the State by Herbert Spencer
Our Enemy the State by Albert Jay Nock
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Why I Would Not Vote Against Hitler by Wendy McElroy (a plumb-line case against democracy and voting -- Ms. McElroy argues it is morally preferable to assasinate Hitler than to vote against him, because voting reifies the very system that allows a Hitler to come to power in the first place.)
Anarchist Theory FAQ by Bryan Caplan

Want to Know More About Inexpensive and Free Travel?

Flyertalk.com: Online Travel Community
Biddingfortravel.com: Bulletin Board for Successful Priceline Bidding
Sidestep.com: Airfare Metasearch Tool
ITA Software: The backend of Orbitz
TheTrip.com FlightTracker
Great Circle Mapper: Distances Between Airports
MileageAddict's Mileage Workshop: More Tips on Accumulating Miles and Points
MileTracker: Free tool for managing all of your frequent flyer point accounts

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