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Posts Tagged ‘KGB’

BARBARISM ISN’T GOOD P.R.

In History, Military, Politics on February 17, 2015 at 6:30 pm

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been in the news a great deal lately–and for reasons most organizations try to avoid.  Or at least cover up. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by

  • Russia
  • the United States
  • Canada
  • the European Union
  • Australia
  • Turkey
  • the United Nations
  • Indonesia
  • the United Kingdom
  • Saudi Arabia
  • the United Arab Emerites
  • Egypt
  • India and
  • Malaysia

It been condemned by such well-known human rights organizations as Amnesty International.  And a major reason for this is the evidence of its brutalities that ISIS has proudly supplied. Among this evidence are its own Internet videos of

  • the beheadings of soldiers, civilians, journalists, and aid workers;
  • the burning of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot;
  • demands for extortionate ransoms for kidnapped Japanese and American captives;
  • the wholesale shooting of captured Iraqi soldiers; and
  • the selling of captured children.

The release on February 3 of a video showing the barbaric “execution” of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh, underscored ISIS reputation for cruelty

Al Kasaesbeh, locked in a steel cage like an animal, could only watch stoically as an ISIS member ignited a trail of flammable liquid leading directly to him.  The pilot stood upright throughout the ordeal until the flames at last consumed him.

Image result for Images of burning to death of Jordanian pilot

ISIS burning of captured Jordanian fighter pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh 

Terrorism experts believe that the elaborately-staged video was meant to weaken the morale of Jordan and other Sunni Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

But it violated a fundamental rule of public relations: If you commit atrocities, do it secretly so you can deny it if the truth ever comes out.

That’s how the members of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s dreaded secret police–the N.K.V.D.–the predecsssors to the later-named KGB–operated throughout their brutal history.

In 1939, when the Soviet Union seized the eastern half of Poland, the N.K.V.D. executed 22,000 Polish army officers in the dense Katyn forest.

N.K.V.D. executioner

The government of Nazi Germany announced the discovery of mass graves in the forest in 1943.  The Soviet Union furiously denied responsibility, claiming the victims had been executed by the Germans.

The Soviets continued to deny responsibility for the massacres until 1990, when the government finally admitted its guilt.

ISIS has turned out videos of its brutalities which film experts have declared are almost up to the quality of Hollywood spectaculars.  But ISIS leaders have apparently forgotten–if they ever knew–the truth of the saying: “You can make a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”

Niccolo Machiavelli, in his classic work, The Discourses, offered a telling example of how magnanimity can triumph over brutality.

Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.

And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”

Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city.

Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.

This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity. It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

What Machiavelli doesn’t say–but what history offers plenty of examples to substantiate–is this: The brutality of aggressors will be met–and sometimes overcome–with brutality by their past or intended victims.

Nowhere was this better proved than during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Without warning, three million German soldiers–backed up by overwhelming air and tank support–attacked their “ally” on June 22, 1941.

The Wehrmacht blitzed its way across Russia–to the gates of Moscow and as far south as Stalingrad on the Volga River. In its path it left devastated cities and at least 20 million dead Russians.

German soldiers moving into a burning Russian village

Russian women were gang-raped, then shot, or blown up with hand grenades. Tens of thousands of captured Russian soldiers were allowed to die of hunger, sickness and freezing cold behind barbed wire.  Other captured POWs were brutally beaten, tortured and/or shot.

But then the tide of war turned and the Russians launched their own offensives in 1943.  And they kept going–all the way to Berlin.

Russians raped tens of thousands of German women–and nailed others to barn doors.  Cossacks cut off the raised hands of Germans trying to surrender.  Tanks crushed retreating German soldiers and civilians unlucky enough to be in their path.

Thus do those who practice barbarism often find themselves being repaid with it–usually ten-fold.

THE POLITICS OF SCAPETOATING: PART THREE (END)

In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Law on February 6, 2015 at 12:15 am

With the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Republican Party went into a tailspin of dismay.

For almost 50 years, Republicans had conjured up The Red Bogeyman to scare voters into sending them to Congress and the White House.

But now that the “workers’ paradise” had disappeared, Americans seemed to lose interest in the Communist Menace.

True, the People’s Republic of China remained, and its increasing economic clout would challenge the United States well into the 21st century.  But Americans didn’t seem to fear the Red Chinese as they had the Red Russians.

What was the Republican Party to do to lure voters?

On September 11, 2001, the answer arrived–in two highjacked jetliners that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and one that struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

Consider:

  • Mike Huckabee – “If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that.”
  • Herman Cain – ”I would not” appoint a Muslim in his administration.
  • Newt Gingrich – “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they [his grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists. …”
  • Rick Santorum – On supporting the racial profiling of Muslims: “Obviously, Muslims would be someone you look at, absolutely.”
  • Mitt Romney – “Based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position [for a Muslim] would be justified.”

And on July 13, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Departments of

  • Defense;
  • State;
  • Justice; and
  • Homeland Security.

“The purpose of these letters,” wrote Bachmann, was to “request a multi-department investigation into potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the United States Government.”

Michelle Bachmann

Bachmann further asserted in her letter to the State Department that Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

And the evidence for this?

The Center for Security Policy’s claim that Abedin’s father (who died when she was a teenager), mother and brother are “connected” to the organization.

And what is the Center of Security Policy?  A private organization subsidized by donors to neo-conservative causes.

In a separate letter, Bachmann demanded to know how Abedin received her security clearance.

Among the co-signers of Bachmann’s letter to the Inspectors General were:

  • Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, who has said abortion has done more harm to blacks than slavery;
  • Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, who called presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, ”uppity”; and
  • Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who claims that terrorist organizations send pregnant women into the U.S. so that their children will be American citizens–who can enter and leave the country at will as they are trained to be terrorists abroad.

When pressed for their evidence of “a vast Muslim conspiracy,” right-wing accusers usually refuse to provide any.

An example of this occurred during an August 13, 2010 interview between Gohmert and CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

COOPER: What research? Can you tell us about the research?

GOHMERT: You are attacking the messenger, Anderson, you are better than this. You used to be good. You used to find that there was a problem and you would go after it.

COOPER: Sir, I am asking you for evidence of something that you said on the floor of the House.

GOHMERT: I did, and you listen, this is a problem. If you would spend as much time looking into the problem as you would have been trying to come after me and belittle me this week –

COOPER: Sir, do you want to offer any evidence? I’m giving you an opportunity to say what research and evidence you have. You’ve offered none, other than yelling.

Nor did Gohmert offer any evidence that evening.

Of course, the ultimate Republican Muslim slander is that President Barack Obama–a longtime Christian–is himself a Muslim.

No doubt Republicans feel totally safe in making these attacks, since Muslims comprise only 1% of the American population.

This has long been a hallmark of right-wing attacks–to go after a minority that cannot effectively defend itself.

Thus, Adolf Hitler attacked the Jews of Germany.

And Republicans have successively attacked blacks, Hispanics and gays–until each group became politically influential enough to defeat Republican candidates.

Today, most right-wing politicians at least grudgingly court all of these groups.

When Muslims become a significant political force in their own right, the Right will court them, too.  And then move on to yet another helpless scapegoat to blame for America’s troubles.

THE POLITICS OF SCAPEGOATING: PART TWO (OF THREE

In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Law on February 5, 2015 at 12:08 am

“Judge not, that you not be judged.  For with what judgment you judged, you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

So warns the Gospel of St. Matthew, 7:1-2.  It’s advice that Right-wingers Joseph McCarthy, Robert Welch and George H.W. Bush would have done well to heed.

Joseph McCarthy, Wisconsin’s gift to the United States Senate, became infamous as the demagogue whose Red-baiting accusations terrified America from 1950 to 1954.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed–and demonstrated–its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.

But anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech.  Republicans–resentful at being denied the White House since 1932–seized upon anti-communism as their passport to power.

No American–no matter how prominent–was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer–”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwright Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actressses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birth Society in 1958.

Robert Welch

Welch, an independently wealthy businessman, used his money to publicize the Society and its views.  Welch saw even hardline anti-Communists like Vice President Richard Nixon and actor Ronald Reagan as dangerously liberal.

Meanwhile, McCarthy finally overstepped himself.  In 1953, he attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as the bullying demagogue he was.  A Senate committee voted to condemn his behavior, charging that he had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Although McCarthy remained in the Senate another two and a half years, his political influence had ended.

Journalists who had raced to cover his latest slander now avoided him.  So did his Republican colleagues–many of whom had once sought his help at election time.

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1960.

After holding the White House for eight years under Eisenhower, they lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.  They elected Richard Nison–and re-elected him in 1972.

After Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980, Republicans held the White House until 1992.  Throughout that time, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents–or at least unwitting pawns–of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their evidence: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchrian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas–one of America’s poorest states–and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Although Republicans continued to hurl “Communist!” and “treason!” at their opponents, these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.”

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans–and their right-wing supporters–at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

THE POLITICS OF SCAPEGOATING: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Politics, Bureaucracy, History, Social commentary, Law on February 4, 2015 at 12:02 am

All revolutions,” said Ernst Rohem, leader of Adolf Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs, the S.A., “devour their own children.”

Ernst Rohem

Fittingly, he said this as he sat inside a prison cell awaiting his own execution.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers.  The purge was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.  They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

But after Hitler reached the pinnacle of power, they became a liability.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, theReichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr gave Hitler an ultimatum: Get rid of Rohem–or they would get rid of him.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets–as did several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

Among the SS commanders supervising those executions was Reinhard Heydrich–a tall, blond-haired formal naval officer who was both a champion fencer and talented violinist.

Ultimately, he would become the personification of the Nazi ideal–”the man with the iron heart,” as Hitler eulogized at Heydrich’s funeral just eight years later.

Reinhard Heydrich

Even so, Heydrich had a problem: He could never escape vicious rumors that his family tree contained a Jewish ancestor.

His paternal grandmother had married Reinhold Heydrich, and then Gustav Robert Suss.  For unknown reasons, she decided to call herself Suss-Heydrich.

Since “Suss” was widely believed in Germany to indicate Jewish origin, the “stigma” of Jewish heritage attached itself to the Heydrich family.

Heydrich joined the SS in 1931 and quickly became head of its counterintelligence service.  But his arrogance and overweening ambition created a great many enemies.

Only a year later, he became the target of an urgent investigation by the SS itself. The charge: That he was part-Jewish, the ultimate sin in Hitler’s “racially pure” Nazi Germany.

The investigation cleared Heydrich, but the rumor of his “tainted” origins persisted, clearly tormenting the second most powerful man in the SS. Even his superior, Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer-SS, believed it.

When Heydrich was assassinated in 1942 by Czech assassins in Prague, Himmler attended his funeral. He paid tribute to his former subordinate at the service: ”You, Reinhard Heydrich, were a truly good SS-man.”

But he could not resist saying in private: “He was an unhappy man, completely divided against himself, as often happened with those of mixed race.”

Those who dare to harshly judge others usually find themselves assailed just as harshly.

A modern-day example is Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a 2014 candidate for U.S. Senator from Wyoming.

Liz tried to position herself as far more right-wing than her opponent, Republican U.S. Senator Michael Bradley “Mike” Enzi. She found her work cut out for her: In March, 2007, Enzi was ranked by National Journal as the sixth-most conservative U.S. Senator. Among his legislative priorities:

  • Supporting partial privatization of Social Security
  • Consistently voting against expanding Medicare.
  • Voting against enrolling more children or the poor in public healthcare.

       Mike Enzi

And Liz had a problem Enzi did not: Her sister, Mary, was not only a lesbian but legally married to another woman: Heather Poe.  This led many Wyoming voters to wonder if Liz Cheney was far-Right enough to merit their support.

So Liz went all-out to assure them that even though her sister led a degenerate lifestyle, she, Liz, stood foursquare against legalizing gay marriage: “I do believe it’s an issue that’s got to be left up to states. I do believe in the traditional definition of marriage.”

Liz Cheney

And, in another statement: “I am strongly pro-life and I am not pro-gay marriage.

“I believe the issue of marriage must be decided by the states, and by the people in the states, not by judges and not even by legislators, but by the people themselves.”

This stance led to a heated rift between her and Mary. “For the record, I love my sister, but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage,” Mary Cheney wrote in a Facebook post in September, 2013.

“Freedom means freedom for everyone,” she continued. “That means that all families–regardless of how they look or how they are made–all families are entitled to the same rights, privileges and protections as every other.”

Adding to the complications: Their father, Dick Cheney—often ridiculed as “Darth Vader” for his own extreme Right-wing views—endorsed same-sex marriage in 2009.

(After a brief run, Cheney, on January 6, 2014, Cheney withdrew from the race.)

But, as was true for officials in Nazi Germany, so is it true for Right-wing Republicans: It’s impossible to be too radical a Right-winger.

In the 1930s and 40s, it was politically—and personally—dangerous to be labeled “pro-Jewish” or “pro-Communist” in Hitler’s Germany.

And today it is equally dangerous—at least politically—to be labeled “pro-liberal” or “pro-gay” in the Republican Party.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART EIGHT (END)

In History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 24, 2014 at 12:00 am

So you’ve decided to sue the airline you believe wronged you.

One option is to do so in small claims court.

A plus is you don’t need an attorney. In fact, you’re barred from bringing in an attorney. You represent yourself, which means you don’t have to pay an attorney–either up-front or at the end of the case.

Another plus: It will cost you far less to represent yourself than it will cost the airline to send a representative.

If you file in California and the airline is headquartered in New York, it will be expensive for them to send a rep to attend the proceedings. If the airline fails to send someone as its representative–which is highly unlikely–it loses by default.

A minus is that you may not be the confrontational type.  You may also feel intimidated by the legal process–and afraid of looking like an idiot if you lose.

Another minus is that each state sets a different amount you can win in damages.

To learn about the rules applying to small claims courts in your state, consult the following link:

Click here: 50 State Overview of Small Claims Rules | Nolo.com.

A second option is to take your case to civil court.

A plus is that the dollar-amount you can obtain at this level is far higher than in small-claims court.

A minus is that you’ll definitely want to retain an attorney.

True, you can legally represent yourself.  But aviation law is complex.  The airline will definitely have an attorney, so if you don’t, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight.

If you can find an attorney willing to represent you on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay him unless you win.  His fee will then come out of your settlement amount.

Another minus: If you can’t find an attorney willing to take your case on this basis, you’ll have to pay him by the hour, after first putting up a retainer fee, which can be quite large.

A third minus is that the courts are clogged with cases, and it can take months or even years before yours will be heard.

And remember: The vast majority of cases–civil and criminal–are settled outside of court.  In civil cases especially, judges strongly urge both sides to reach a compromise rather than duke it out in court.

And both sides are usually willing to do this, since there’s no telling how a jury might rule.

Finally, there’s the option of filing a class-action lawsuit.

A plus to this is that you’re not alone in your charge against the airline.  Other passengers who have been similarly wronged are seeking damages, and so the spotlight is not on any one plaintiff.

A minus is that such cases are extremely complex and must be handled by experienced attorneys.

Typically, federal courts are thought to be more favorable for defendants, and state courts more favorable for plaintiffs. Many class actions are filed initially in state court. The defendant will frequently try to remove the case to federal court.

Another minus: If your side prevails, the amount of money each plaintiff receives will be far smaller than if the award were to be divided between a single plaintiff and his attorney(s).

Finally, even if you win, you can be certain the airline will appeal the verdict.  Such appeals can go on for literally years.

On a more far-reaching basis, you can demand that your Congressional representatives support passenger rights through legislation.

Protections are especially needed when a single airline official–such as a steward–kicks a passenger off an airplane for reasons that have nothing to do with security.

Examples:

  • Two women kissing;
  • A steward demanding whether a woman is wearing underwear;
  • Another steward taking offense at a passenger’s request for help.)

During the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress overrode only one of his 44 vetoes.  In that case, Congress put a cap on the rates cable TV companies could charge.

They did so because their constituents had made clear their rage about high-priced cable fees.

Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will respond to constituent demands:

  1. If enough voters make their specific demands known; and
  2. If those voters make clear that ignoring their demands will guarantee defeat at the next election.

There are consumer rights organizations now pressing for vitally-needed passenger protections.  These organizations need support–both in terms of members and money.

Only then can they counter the legalized bribes (known as “campaign contributions) the airlines offer to members of Congress.

An example is Flyers Rights, which can be reached at: FlyersRights.ORG – Largest Non-Profit Airline Consumer Organization.

Above all, remember: Airlines are run by corporations.

Their foremost concern is not your comfort or even safety as a passenger.  It’s with further enriching their key executives.

You must be willing to stand up for your own rights–because the airline couldn’t care less about them.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART SEVEN (OF EIGHT)

In History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 21, 2014 at 12:22 am

You can’t get the airline to take your complaint seriously but you don’t want to file a lawsuit.

So now what do you do?

You could file a complaint with one or more consumer complaint websites.  Just remember:

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or financial ruin unless he pays you money and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.
  • And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

Review the guidelines offered in Part Six of this series on how to safely craft your letter/email.

Below is a partial list of consumer complaint websites.  No endorsement is implied by this listing.  It’s offered simply to illustrate the variety of such websites available.

Your first impulse will probably be to file your complaint with a a website like one of these.

Don’t do it.

Instead, try to resolve your problem (assuming it can be resolved) with the airline.

Why?  Two reasons:

  1. You may be able to obtain what you want at that level, without having to do anything more.
  2. If you don’t give the airline the chance to address your grievance, you will be accused of pursuing a vendetta.  This will be especially true if you later sue the airline.

Use websites like these as a fallback option–in case you’re unable to can’t resolve your problem with the airlines.

And, frankly, there’s a good chance you won’t.

In its September 3, 2009 issue, Time magazine warned that calling the airlines’ customer complaint lines would likely prove a waste of time.

The major carriers have, quietly, made it steadily more difficult for customers to reach a person with their complaints. “The airlines don’t want to talk to their  customers,” says John Tschohl, a consultant to businesses on customer service.

Even the few airlines that still have customer-service numbers bury them deep within their websites.  Finding them is often as much a matter of luck as persistence.

So as advised in Part Five of this series:

  • Don’t waste your time with the Customer Service line.
  • Go directly to the topmost official(s) of the airline and make it clear why it’s in their best interests to resolve your problem. 
  • Then, if you can’t find a workable solution, file your complaint with as many consumer-protection websites as possible.

You can also file complaints with one or more federal agencies that hold jurisdiction over the airlines.

If your complaint is safety related, address it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at:

Assistant Administrator for System Safety ASY-100

Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20591

Phone: 1-866-835-5322

Click here: Contact the Aviation Safety Hotline

If your complaint involves security, direct it to the Transportation Safety Adminisration (TSA).

You can reach this by phone at 866-289-9673 or by email at tsa-contactcenter@dhs.gov.

A final option is to sue the airline.

For most people, bringing in a lawyer is like bringing up the heavy artillery.  When should you do so?

Christopher Elliott, author, consumer advocate and journalist, outlines “five times when you should consider skipping the complaints process and going straight to court:

  1. When they’re playing games.
  2. When they’ve broken a contract.
  3. When they’re being dishonest.
  4. When they’re ignoring you.
  5. When they aren’t listening to reason.

Elliott’s webpage contains a wealth of practical advice for those who’ve had their fill of airline arrogance.  It can be accessed thus:

Click here: See you in court: 5 times when you should just sue ‘em.

Yet another must-read for those wondering if they should file suit:

Click here: Lies the Airlines Tell Us – ABC News

Assuming you decide to sue, there are three ways to do this:

  1. In small claims court.
  2. In regular civil court as an individual claimant.
  3. As part of a class-action lawsuit.

Each approach has its own series of pluses and minuses.  I’ll explore these in my next–and final–part of this series.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART SIX (OF EIGHT)

In Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 20, 2014 at 12:15 am

For your complaint to be addressed, it must first be put in writing–whether in a letter and/or an email.  Most likely, several letters and/or emails.

Even in our video-oriented society, the written word still carries far greater weight than the spoken one.  A document can be used as evidence in a civil lawsuit.

If you cringe at writing it yourself, you can ask someone else to write it for you.  But if s/he lacks excellent judgment and literary skills, you’ll be no better-off.

At best, the letter will prove ineffective and be ignored.  At worst, it could open you to charges of libel and/or extortion.

And even if the person can write an effective letter on your behalf, chances are you’ll have to pay for that service.

If you decide to write the letter yourself, you’ll find highly effective advice in Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed: How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results, by Ellen Phillips.

Product Details

Click here: Amazon.com: Shocked, Appalled, and Dismayed! How to Write Letters of Complaint That Get Results (9780375701207): E

Among the subjects she covers–in detail–are:

  • Who to write to, what to say, what to ask for.
  • The names and addresses of over 600 major companies.
  • How to draft personal petitions covering everything from tenant-landlord disputes to workman’s compensation.
  • What steps to take to avoid litigation.

My own tips for writing a successful complaint letter are:

  • Remove any vulgar or profane words. 
  • Don’t make sweeping accusations: “Your agency is a waste.” 
  • Stick to facts you know can be proved: The who, what, when, where, how and why of reporting.
  • Don’t attribute motives to people you’ve had problems with.  You don’t know why someone did what he did.
  • Cite the names and titles of any airline employees who (1) can support your claim, or (2) were witnesses to the incident.

  • Show how the failure of the official to address your problem reflects badly on the company: “This is not the level of service your ads would lead potential customers to expect.”
  • Be reasonable and realistic in what you ask for. 
  • If you want reimbursement for expenses you had to make (such as hotel lodgings) owing to the airline’s fault, then provide copies of receipts.
  • Emphasize your desire to resolve the complaint amicably and privately within the company.
  • If necessary, note any regulatory agencies that can make life rough for the company if your complaint isn’t resolved. 
  • Cite the applicable law(s) under which it can be sued: “According to the Passenger Bill of Rights….”
  • Make certain the airline knows you expect a reply within a certain length of time: “I would appreciate your response within the next 10 business days.”  Otherwise they’ll feel they can afford to ignore your complaint.
  • If there is a specific action the airline can take to redress your complaint, be sure to mention it.  (You can be so angry when making a complaint that you forget to say what you want the company to do to resolve it.)

Of course, your overture(s) may be ignored.  Or you might feel the airline has not made a good-faith effort to compensate you.

In either case, you have two more courses of action to pursue.

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private lawsuit.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s far easier to spread the word about companies that mistreat their customers.

“Fly the Friendly Skies” is no longer n advertising slogan (even at United Airlines, which popularized it).  But airlines spend millions of dollars a year on selling just that image of themselves.

So anything that threatens to throw mud on that image is guaranteed to set off alarm-bells at corporate headquarters.  Especially if that mud is well-deserved.

An easy way to avenge airline mistreatment is to make full use of a wide array of consumer-opinion websites.

It’s important to check out each website carefully to increase your chances of having your complaint resolved.

  • Most websites simply offer a forum to vent your spleen.
  • Others promise to take various forms of action on your behalf–such as directing your complaint to the airline or a government agency.
  • Others offer to refer your complaint to an attorney.
  • Many of these are free.
  • Others charge a nominal fee (such as $5) for posting your complaint.
  • Some complaint websites are run by the Federal Government–such as those of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Some are run by individual states–such as the Office of the California Attorney General.
  • The major airlines provide “file a complaint” pages on their websites.

WARNING:

  • What you say online can hurt you.
  • Accuse someone of criminal or shameful behavior, and you can be sued for libel.
  • Threaten someone with exposure or financial ruin and you can be privately sued and/or criminally prosecuted for extortion.

And once you click on the “Send” button, there’s no recalling your email.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART FIVE (OF EIGHT)

In Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on November 19, 2014 at 12:00 am

Have a complaint against an airline–but don’t want to waste your time with low-level Customer Service reps?

Good.  You’ve just learned what is probably the single most important lesson in bureaucracy-busting: If you want action, seek out those who are empowered to make it happen.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it. This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.

But who are these people? And how do you track them down?

You start by realizing that every major airline has a website. And that website can usually be counted on to list the top honchos of the company.

Even if it doesn’t, you can usually obtain this information on the Internet. Go to “google” and type: “[Name of airline] board of directors.”

This should arm you with a series of websites providing

  • the name of the CEO;
  • the company’s mailing address;
  • its phone number for reaching its top executives; and
  • its website and/or email address.

Below are listed

  • the names of the CEOs of the major United States airlines
  • their mailing addresses
  • their corporate phone numbers and (where given)
  • their email addresses.

But the corporate world is filled with men (and a few women) who are highly skilled at moving up–by moving others out.  So keep in mind that the names provided below will not be permanent.

Check out the appropriate websites to obtain the latest information before writing that letter and/or making that call.

Too many airlines treat their passengers like captives of Vladimir Putin’s KGB

Send out a letter addressed “To Whom It May Concern” and you’ll instantly be branded as a lightweight.   This only shows that you were too lazy/stupid to find out who holds power in the organization.

Whereas a well-written letter addressed to the key decision maker will instantly warn top executives: “Take this person seriously.”

Now, the airlines:

DELTA AIRLINES

Richard H. Anderson – Chief Executive Officer

Edward H. Bastian – President

Email:   Email us

Phone: (404) 715-2600

Mail:

Delta Air Lines, Inc.
1030 Delta Blvd.
Atlanta, Georgia 30354

Click here: Delta Air Lines Newsroom – Leadership

AMERICAN AIRLINES

William Douglas ParkerChairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, AMR Corporation / American Airlines Group, Inc., Fort Worth, Texas.

John W. Bachmann – Senior Partner, Edward Jones, St. Louis, Missouri.

Mail:

P.O. Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

Phone: (817) 963-1234

Click here: American Airlines Board of Directors

UNITED AIRLINES

Jeffery A. Smisek – Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, United Continental Holdings, Inc.

Oscar Munoz – Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, CSX Corporation

Shareholders and other interested parties may contact the United Continental Holdings, Inc. Board of Directors as a whole, or any individual member, by one of the following means:

  1. writing to the Board of Directors, United Continental Holdings, Inc., c/o the Corporate Secretary’s Office, HDQLD, 77 W. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601; or
  2. by emailing the Board of Directors at UALBoard@united.com

If neither of these methods seems to work, try these:

Mail:
P.O. Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666

Phone (general): (800) (800) 864-8331

Phone Investor Relations: (312) 997-8610

United Continental Holdings, Inc. – Investor Relations – Board of Directors

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

Joel C. Peterson – Independent Chairman of the Board of Jetblue Airways Corporation.

David Barger – President, Chief Executive Officer, Director of JetBlue Airways Corporation.

Mark D. Powers – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, Treasurer of JetBlue Airways Corporation.

JetBlue Airways Corporation Corporate Office | Headquarters
118-29 Queens Blvd.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
Phone:  (718) 286-7900
Toll Free: (800) 538-2583

http://www.jetblue.com

AIRTRAN

AirTran Airways is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southwest Airlines.  Thus, complaints against Airtran should be directed to the top executives of Southwest.

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

Gary C. Kelly – Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Southwest Airlines, the parent company for AirTran

Douglas H. Brooks – Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer
Southwest Airlines Corporate Headquarters
Physical Address:
Southwest Airlines
2702 Love Field Drive
Dallas, Texas 75235
Telephone: (214) 792-4223

Click here: Southwest Airlines Investor Relations – Board of Directors

US AIRWAYS

Robert Isom – Chief Executive Officer

Bruce Lakefield – Vice Chairman of the Board, President, CEO

Derek Kerr – Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President

Corporate Contact Information:

Mailing address:

US Airways
4000 E. Sky Harbor Blvd.
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Corporate headquarters:

111 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

Phone: (480) 693-0800  7 AM – 5 PM Monday – Friday

Daniel E. Cravens
Director,
Investor Relations
US Airways
111 West Rio Salado Parkway
Tempe, AZ 85281

Phone: 480.693.1227

E-mail: Click here: US Airways | Compliments/complaints

Click here: US Airways | Investor relations

ALASKA AIRLINES

William S. Ayer – Chairman

Bradley D. Tilden – President and CEO

Brandon Pederson – Chief Financial Officer

Corporate Offices:

P.O. Box 68900
Seattle, WA 98168

Phone: (206-433-3200

Click here: Executive Leadership – Alaska Airlines

CONTINENTAL AIRLINES

In 2010, Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines.  Direct all inquiries and complaints to United Airlines, whose corporate information is given above.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART FOUR (OF EIGHT)

In Business, History, Law, Social commentary on November 18, 2014 at 12:05 am

The concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.

Under Federal law, as enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration, airline passengers have only the following guaranteed rights:

If your flight is delayed (such as by bad weather) and you’re stuck on the tarnac:

  • Tarnac delays cannot exceed three hours. You can leave the plane if you choose after that.
  • Food and water must be available after the plane has been stuck on the tarnac for two hours.
  • The airline must service toilets, keep air conditioning on, and keep trash cans clean.

In addition, the U.S. government mandates these “rights” for air travelers:

  1. Compensation when you’re bumped due to overbooking –and for no other reason.
  2. An airline must accept lost/damaged baggage liability up to $3,000 in depreciated value per passenger for a domestic flight (limits on international flights are either about $1,700 or $635, depending on which rule applies).

Beyond those, all you can claim is what’s in each airline’s “contract of carriage.” Those contracts are–naturally–heavily biased toward airlines, not customers.

Given that the law–and the Congressmen who create it–is still largely owned by the airlines, you, as a customer, are forced to make do with the weapons at hand.

These essentially boil down to two:

  1. Threatening the airlines with bad publicity; and
  2. Threatening the airlines with a private or class-action lawsuit.

In both cases, it’s best to first contact the highest-ranking officials in the airline company.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. They have the most to lose, and
  2. They have the power to redress your complaint.

You can try to reach the CEO or one of his assistants during the time of the incident.  But, most likely, this will happen afterwards.

If a mini-Hitler of an airline steward decides to eject you because s/he doesn’t like your clothes or request for help, there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you physically resist, you will almost certainly be arrested and charged with some version of domestic terrorism.  You’ll be shipped off to jail and forced to defend yourself against the bogus charge.

Even if the authorities decide to not prosecute, you’ll have to spend at least several hundred dollars on legal representation.

And, of course, the airlines won’t care.  They won’t be spending a dime on your prosecution–that will be paid for by the local U.S. Attorney’s (federal prosecutor’s) office.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, wisely advised in The Prince:

A prince…must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.  One must therefore be a fox to avoid traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

This is definitely the time to take on the trappings of a fox.  However painful it is to swallow the insult at the time it’s given, don’t give the airlines an excuse to have you arrested.

Take your revenge afterward.  That’s what musician Dave Carroll did.

Carroll alleged that, in 2008, he and fellow passengers saw United Airlines’ baggage-handling crew throwing guitars on the tarmac in Chicago O’Hare.  He arrived at Omaha, Nebraska, his destination to discover that the neck of his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been broken.

Carroll complained to three United employees, but they proved indifferent.  He filed a claim with the airline–but was told he was ineligible for compensation.

The reason?  He had not filed the claim within the company’s stipulated “standard 24-hour timeframe.”

Carroll turned to his musical roots for a remedy.  He wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars,” and turned it into a music video which he posted on YouTube and iTunes in July, 2009.

Click here: United Breaks Guitars – YouTube

The song went viral, and became a public relations nightmare for the airline.

The Sunday Times reported that, four days after the video’s posting, United Airlines’ stock price fell 10% costing stockholders about $180 million in value.

Most customers, admittedly, aren’t musicians.  For them–short of suing–the weapons of choice will be:

  • The phone
  • Letters
  • The Internet
  • Consumer protection organizations that can be enlisted

Let’s start with the first: The phone.

Most customers assume the place to take their anger is the airline Customer Service desk.  And the airlines encourage people to do just that.

Don’t do it.

Customer Service is staffed by people who may ooze compassion but who aren’t authorized to do anything on your behalf. And of course they’ll be well-versed in the standard airline excuses for why your request is denied.

(Think of Dave Carroll and the excuse United’s reps offered him: You didn’t file your claim within 24 hours.)

Even if they truly want to help you, they’ll find themselves outranked at every level.

So take your complaint to someone who has the authority to resolve it.  This means, preferably, the CEO of the airline, or at least one of his executive colleagues.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART THREE (OF EIGHT)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Social commentary on November 17, 2014 at 12:03 am

When Leisha Hailey and her girlfriend kissed aboard a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, they quickly found themselves in trouble.

Leisha Hailey

A flight attendant told them that Southwest was “a family airline.” When they argued they were targets of homophobia, the attendant ejected them from the plane.

Hailey–the star of Showtime’s The L-Word (and a lesbian)–posted her experience on Twitter.  Calling for a boycot of Southwest, she tweeted:

“I want to know what Southwest Airlines considers as ‘family.’ I know plenty of wonderful same-sex families I would like to introduce them to. Boycott @SouthwestAir if you are gay. They don’t like us.”

Naturally, Southwest had its own explanation for what had happened:

“…We received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight.”

Translation: The situation was “better resolved on the ground” by forcing two unarmed, non-threatening women to leave the plane rather than having the airline honor their high-priced tickets.

Now, a quick question: When does a camera become a dangerous weapon?

When you snap a picture of an especially rude airline employee.

  • A  Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she did this at Philadelphia International Airport in July, 2011.

Sandy DeWitt believed the employee, Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt, a professional photographer, used her iPhone to snap a picture of G.’s nametag.  She intended to file a complaint with US Airways and wanted the picture as evidence.

As DeWitt settled into her seat, preparing for take-off, G. entered the plane and confronted her.

She ordered DeWitt to delete the photo.

DeWitt had already turned off her iPhone, as required before take-off.  She turned the phone back on to prove that the photo hadn’t come out.  Even so, she deleted the too-dark picture.

G. then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Suddenly, DeWitt found herself being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants.  Her husband followed.

Speaking with Michael Lofton, a US Airways manager at Philadelphia International Airport, she learned that she would not be allowed back on the plane.

The reason:  She was a “security risk.”

But that didn’t keep Lofton from directing her to American Airlines for a flight back to Miami.

But that flight had already departed and it was already after 7 p.m.  And there were no other flights back to Miami until the following morning.

“We were expecting to spend the night at the airport,” she said.

They eventually boarded a Southwest Airlines flight to Fort Lauderdale at 11 p.m.

Apparently, Southwest didn’t consider her to be a “security risk.”

Naturally, US Airways had a cover-story to explain what had happened.

Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for US Airways, told msnbc.com that DeWitt was removed for being “disruptive.”

“Once onboard, she was using foul and explicit language,” Lehmacher said. “She was removed at the request of the captain.”

Translation: “Disruptive” means whatever an airline official claims it to mean.

Business Insider ranked US Airways sixth in a list of the 19 Most Hated Companies in America.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is an economic indicator that measures the satisfaction of consumers across the United States. It is produced by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, a private company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The ACSI interviews about 80,000 Americans annually and asks about their satisfaction with the goods and services they have consumed. And Americans’ most-hated companies include large banks, airlines, power and telecom companies.

David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, offered a critical insight into why these companies are so detested.

“These are not terribly competitive industries, as the switching barriers for most of them are quite high,” he told Business Insider in June, 2011.

“In other industries, like the food or clothing sector, the competition is huge. They bend over backwards to make customers happy, because they have to.”

There certainly isn’t much competition within the airlines industry–whose numbers are limited and continue to shrink due to mergers and the rising cost of fuel.

For the airline industry generally, the former slogan of United Airlines–”Fly the Friendly Skies”–has unofficially been replaced with: “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

So–when you’re facing a would-be KGB agent masquerading as an airline employee, what should you do?

First, you recognize that the concept of “consumer rights” has not yet reached the airline industry.

Then you do what you can to see that it does.

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