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MIKE PENCE’S LEGACY: BRINGING SHARIA LAW TO AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

Michael Richard “Mike” Pence served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 2001 to 2013. He also served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2012.  

In 2012, he ran for Governor of Indiana, won the election, and assumed this office in 2013.

On July 15, 2016, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he had selected Pence as his Vice Presidential running mate in the 2016 Presidential election.

As a member of Congress, Pence: 

  • Voted, in 2007, to defund Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions.
  • Opposed, in 2009, giving American citizenship to children born to illegal aliens living within the United States.
  • Compared the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Voted to eliminate funding for climate education programs and to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

As Governor, Pence: 

  • Unsuccessfully pushed for a 10% income-tax rate cut.
  • Signed legislation in 2015 that repealed an 80-year-old Indiana law requiring construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage.
  • Successfully lobbied in 2013 to limit reductions in sentences for marijuana offenses.
  • Agreed, in 2015, to expand Medicaid in Indiana, in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

But for all of Pence’s actions as Congressman and Governor, the one which may prove the most far-reaching may be this: His signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

As Governor of Indiana, he did this on March 26, 2015. The law allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

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Mike Pence

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its purpose is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.

The same applies for a hospital that doesn’t want to provide care to a gay or lesbian patient. 

The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature.  

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.

Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.

It’s almost as if Pence sensed that he was about to push open a door into a danger-filled room. And this may well be the case.

Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis. The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.

Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.

“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL. Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL. Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”

No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state. But worse may be to come.

Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America. And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

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Muslims demanding the imposition of Sharia law–on themselves and non-Muslims

Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:

  • Women should have fewer rights than men.
  • Abortion should be illegal.
  • There should be no separation between church and state.
  • Religion should be taught in school.
  • Religious doctrine trumps science.
  • Government should be based on religious doctrine.
  • Homosexuality should be outlawed.

What will happen when: 

  • Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?  
  • Muslims demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor? (Exactly this happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.) 
  • Muslims demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim? (Exactly this happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects those rights?  

Hang onto your hijabs–it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

WALT DISNEY WORLD: “ALLIGATORS R US”

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on July 6, 2016 at 12:17 am

NO SWIMMING

BEWARE

PLEASE BE AWARE OF ALLIGATORS IN THE LAKE.

So warns a sign at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel, in Bay Lake, Fla. To drive home the message, it features an eye-catching symbol: A green alligator, its jaws open wide.

Just minutes away lies the Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort, where, on June 14, a sign read:

STEEP DROP-OFF

DEEP WATER

NO SWIMMING

It’s likely that the parents of two-year-old Lane Graves wish they had chosen the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Hotel for their vacation spot.

Had they done so, their son might well be alive today.

On June 14, an alligator, estimated at seven feet, snatched Lane as he waded in less than six inches of water at nightfall.

Lane Graves

His father, Matt, rushed into the water to save Lane.  But he was attacked by a second alligator as he fought for his son.  He suffered several bites before the two alligators disappeared into the lagoon.  

The next day, an Orange County Sheriff’s dive team found Lane’s intact body.  

The Graves family, natives of landlocked Omaha, Nebraska, were overwhelmed with grief.

“We are devastated and ask for privacy during this extremely difficult time,” said a statement released by a family friend on June 16.

The Graves family were not the only ones shocked by the lack of an alligator warning at Disney.

Several tourists interviewed at the nearby Hyatt shared similar outrage.

“We didn’t know there weren’t any signs like they have here, ‘Beware of Alligators,'” Hyatt guest Chloe Giles, 21, told PEOPLE. “We thought they had a big sign like they have here: ‘Beware of Alligators.’ “

Three weeks before the fatal snatching of Lane Graves, Dani Saunders, Christopher Spackman and their two young daughters, Charlie and Laila, visited Disney in Orlando, Fla. They stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, but one night they went to a beach on Bay Lake to watch fireworks.

Grand Floridian Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort 

“It’s the same area that the lagoon goes into,” Saunders said. “And we went at the same time– at 9:30 as the other people were there.”

In a state where the alligator population numbers at more than one million, Florida residents know the dangers and keep small children away from ponds and lakes. But many out-of-state visitors aren’t aware of threat posed by the reptiles.

An official at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that May and June are typically mating season for alligators.

The Commission’s executive director, Nick Wiley, announced that his agency had taken and killed five alligators who were suspected of the attack.

Even more damning for Disney, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Disney staff at a nearby resort knew about guests feeding alligators, and had ignored requests to put up a protective fence around the lagoon.

Mike Hamilton, a custodian at the Polynesian Resort Village–a short distance from the Grand Floridian resort–warned his employer that gators were swimming too close to guests and that a protective fence should be erected to keep them at bay.

“The entire property is interconnected via canals so it is difficult to keep [alligators} out of the lakes. Gators are on all of the golf courses. The team attempts to relocate the gators to the uninhabited natural areas as best they can, but the gators don’t understand the boundaries,” former Disney executive Duncan Dickson told the Sentinel.

According to The Wrap, guests at the Polynesian Resort Village–which charges $2,000 and $3,000 per night for a room–commonly feed the alligators.

“Disney has known about the problem of guests feeding the alligators well prior to the opening of the bungalows,” a source told The Wrap.

The day after divers found the body of Lane, Disney announced that it was reviewing its policies about warning signs.

“We are conducting a swift and thorough review of all our processes and protocols,” Walt Disney World Vice President Jacquee Wahler said in a statement on June 16. “This includes the number, placement and working of our signage and warnings.”

Among the changes:

  • “Tick Tock,” the Croc from “Peter Pan,” has been removed from the park’s Festival of Fantasy parade.
  • So has “Louis,” the trumpet-playing alligator from “The Princess and the Frog,” who  was supposed to be part of the Friendship Faire castle show.
  • The Jungle Cruise tour guides will no longer joke about crocodiles eating children as they narrate a boat tour through the world’s rivers.
  • The Kilimanjaro Safari ride has dropped references to a crocodile pit.

This is typically how an incompetent bureaucracy operates:

  • Ignore repeated warnings about a problem that poses a threat to its customers. The reason: To avoid spending money–most of which will otherwise go to the top officials of the company.
  • When the predicted disaster occurs, the company issues a public apology–and makes “security theater” gestures to reassure the public.

There is no word as yet whether the Graves family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against Walt Disney World.  But only such a lawsuit–and a huge financial loss–will convince this corporation to make a genuine effort to protect its guests.

TAKING BACK OUR BORDERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2016 at 12:19 am

If Americans decide they truly want to control access to their own borders, there is a realistic way to accomplish this.  

And it doesn’t involve building a wall along the Mexican border–which would prove ridiculously expensive and easily circumvented.

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2) The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities which have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

In San Francisco, for example, former District Attorney Kamala Harris—who is now California’s Attorney General—created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony.

(3) Indicting such officials would be comparable to the way that President Andres Jackson dealt with the threat South Carolinians once made to “nullify”–or ignore–any Federal laws they didn’t like.

Jackson quashed that threat by making one of his own: To lead an army into that State and purge all who dared defy the laws of the Federal Government.

(4) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile. 

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(5) CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least twenty years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.

Without employers luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(6) The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.

If they’re not here legally at the time of birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(7) The United States Government–from the President on down–should stop apologizing for the right to control the country’s national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should we.

(8) Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English. 

In Mexico, voting materials are published in one language–Spanish.

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish.

(9) Those who are not legal citizens of the United States should not be allowed to vote in its elections.

In Mexico, those who are not Mexican citizens are not allowed to participate in the country’s elections. 

The Mexican Government doesn’t consider itself racist for strictly enforcing its immigration laws.

The United States Government should not consider itself racist for insisting on the right to do the same.

(10) The United States should impose economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens. 

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price.  Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

TAKING BACK OUR BORDERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2016 at 1:30 am

In 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order, declaring that illegal aliens living in the United States since 2010 could become citizens or lawful residents, thus shielding them from deportation.

Texas challenged that executive order, claiming that Obama had acted unconstitutionally by encroaching on the duties of Congress. Another 25 Republican states joined the lawsuit.

The case went to the Supreme Court–which, on June 23, blocked the implementation of Obama’s executive order. 

The Justices deadlocked on the issue 4-4, thus returning the case to the lower court in Texas that ruled against the administration’s carrying out the policy.

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U.S. Supreme Court

In doing so, the Justices denied at least 4 million illegal aliens the right to remain in the country without fear of deportation.  

For Republicans, the ruling upheld the separation of powers.  

Donald Trump–the presumptive Republican nominee for President–issued a statement: “Today’s 4-4 Supreme Court ruling has blocked one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a president.”  

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) declared:

“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes the president’s executive action on immigration null and voice. The Constitution is clear: The president is not permitted to write laws—only Congress. This is another major victory in our fight to restore the separation of powers.”

Obama quickly expressed his disappointment, saying that the decision “takes us further from the country that we aspire to be.”  

Other Democrats were equally upset by the Court’s decision.  

One of these was Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who wrote on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by divided #SCOTUS decision in #USvTexas. We should be keeping families together, not tearing them apart!”  

Another was Hillary Clinton–the presumed Democratic Presidential nominee–who used the Court’s decision as a way to troll for Hispanic votes. 

“[Donald] Trump has pledged to repeal President Obama’s executive actions on his first day in office,” Clinton said.  

“He has called Mexican immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers.’ He has called for creating a deportation force” to tear 11 million people away from their families and their homes. I believe we are stronger together.”

Both Lee’s and Clinton’s accusations ignored a blunt reality: Families of illegal aliens did not have to break up.

Some members did not have to stay in the United States while others were deported.  Instead, they could leave together and live together in the Latin or Central American country of their origin.  

Illegal immigration has always been a highly emotional issue for conservatives.  But it’s been given added impetus this year.

For years, Republicans and Democrats have clashed over the subject of illegal immigration.

Democrats favor wholesale grants of unearned citizenship to the estimated 11 to 20 million illegal aliens who brazenly violated the law when they sneaked across American borders. 

And Republicans favor beefing up security against future waves of such invaders. 

But the brutal truth is that neither Democrats nor Republicans truly want to end these invasionsNor do they want to deport the millions of illegals who have already taken up residence here.  

They don’t care that these illegals:  

  • Flood the United States with millions of poor non-citizens who don’t speak English.
  • Overwhelm the public school system with children–who also don’t speak English–who require bilingual education.
  • Overwhelm the public healthcare system–especially emergency rooms–with poor illegal aliens. As a result, urgently-needed medical care is often denied to legal American citizens.

Democrats, primarily governed by liberal ideology, believe it’s racist for whites to demand control of their own national borders. They also see illegal aliens as a huge constituency. 

And Republicans want them as low-skilled, low-wage fodder for their major campaign contributors–such as corporate-farms and retail outlets like Wal-Mart.  

Unlike Democrats, however, Republicans like to feign outrage at the presence of so many illegal aliens within their midst. 

It’s the Republican base that’s demanding an end to illegal immigration. 

Those masses of alienated and angry whites who find themselves living in a nation that’s increasingly alien from themselves. And who have made Donald Trump their overwhelming choice for President in 2016.

Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans ignore a blunt reality: Mexico–America’s largest source of illegal aliens–strictly enforces control of its own borders.

Mexico has a single, streamlined law that ensures that foreign visitors and immigrants are:

  • in the country legally;
  • have the means to sustain themselves economically;
  • not destined to be burdens on society;
  • of economic and social benefit to society;
  • of good character and have no criminal records; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the nation.

The law also ensures that:

  • immigration authorities have a record of each foreign visitor;
  • foreign visitors do not violate their visa status;
  • foreign visitors are banned from interfering in the country’s internal politics;
  • foreign visitors who enter under ralse pretenses are imprisoned or deported;
  • foreign visitors violating the terms of their entry are imprisoned are deported;
  • those who aid in illegal immigration will be sent to prison.

Meanwhile, Mexico uses its American border to rid itself of those who might otherwise demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.  

GIVING ADVICE–SAFELY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics on June 23, 2016 at 1:14 am

On the rare occasion when most people think of Niccolo Machiavelli, the image of the devil comes to mind.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy–with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

Also contrary to what most people believe about Machiavelli, he did not advocate evil for its own sake. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect–or perfectly good–solution to a problem.

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern–even brutal–action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread.

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527)–especially for politicians.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer–such as those who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action:  

“For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.”

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.”

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.”

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many.  

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius–and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it–” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 10, 2016 at 12:21 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.

Unfortunately, the law–and the Congressmen who create it–is still largely owned by the airlines. Thus 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.  

The other above-mentioned remedies will be discussed in my coming series, “KGB Airways: Fighting Airline Arrogance.”

KGB AIRWAYS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 9, 2016 at 12:07 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 boycott 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.”

In short, 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.”

Apparently, “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.”

That certainly does not apply to applies to airlines–whose numbers are limited and continue to shrink due to mergers and the occasionally 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 do 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.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 8, 2016 at 12:14 am

The First Amendment of the American Constitution guarantees freedom of speech.

But some airline employees haven’t gotten the word.

Click here: 3 Easy Ways to Tell If a Business Puts Its Customers First – DailyFinance

Yes, what you say can get you thrown off an airplane–or worse. And it doesn’t have to be anything even remotely like a threat.

  • In May, 2011, a US Airways flight was due to depart San Francisco International Airport for Charlotte, North Carolina at 1:20 p.m. But due to bad weather, passengers boarded the plane after 2 p.m.

Once on the plane, a flight attendant told customers over the intercom to hurry up and put their carry-ons in bins so they could take off and make their connecting flight in Charlotte.

One of the passengers, Luke Hazlewood, turned to the person next to him and said it was the airline’s fault they were late, “so don’t get mad at us.”

The flight attendant rushed out of the galley demanding to know who had said that. Once she determined it was Hazlewood, she told him he would have to leave for being disruptive and a threat to the plane.

Sandra Kraus, a former flight attendant, came to Hazlewood’s defense–and the flight attendant told her to get off the plane as well.

Both passengers asked to speak with the captain but he refused to speak with them.

Kraus was put on another flight. Hazlewood and his accompanying girlfriend (who had left the plane with him) found that US Airways wouldn’t compensate them for a hotel room.

The airline refused to answer questions about the matter. Its written statement said “The passengers interfered with the flight crew and in the interest of safety they had to be removed.”

It’s a truism in both journalism and police work: When people refuse to answer questions, it’s nearly always because they know they have something to hide.

And the airline’s response came in the classic voice of the all-powerful dictator: “They refused to treat me like God and so they had to be eliminated.”

Business Insider ranked US Airways #6 on a list of Click here: The 19 Most Hated Companies In America – Business Insider

  • In December, 2011, three middle-aged women were thrown off an AirTran flight at Palm Beach International Airport after a steward began roughly handling the luggage of one of them.

Marilyn Miller, a lawyer, was buckled in for takeoff when the attendant mishandled her overhead luggage. “I have breakables in that,” she said.

The attendant ignored her and kept shoving other bags into hers.

Another passenger, Carol Gray, a retired travel agent, asked the same attendant for help, saying that her seat was broken.

“I’m not talking to you,” said the attendant, and poked her in the arm. He then threatened to throw Miller and Gray off the plane.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Miller.

“Well, you’re getting off,” said the attendant.

Two sheriff’s deputies and airline staff arrived to remove them.

A third passenger, a therapist named Karyn Schoor, spoke up in their defense: “This is crazy, they didn’t do anything. Why are you doing this to them?”

“Throw her off too,”’ ordered the attendant.

All three women were marched off the plane and back into the terminal.

The women were offered flights on other airlines paid for by AirTran.

And the official explanation given by AirTran?

“Our employees are responsible for the safety and comfort of everyone onboard a flight. Our goal is always to mitigate any uncomfortable situation prior to departure.”

Uncomfortable for whom–the passenger who doesn’t want her luggage roughly treated?  Or the attendant whose ego gets bent out of shape at the slightest objection?

  • In July, 2010, Southwest Airlines removed a slender, five-foot-four woman from a plane to accomodate an obese passenger.

The woman was flying standby from Las Vegas to Sacramento.  She had paid full fare for the last available seat, boarded and stowed her bags–and was told she must deplane immediately.

The reason: A late-arriving, 14-year-old passenger required two seats because of her girth.

When the woman asked Southwest personnel why she was being removed her from the flight, they berated her for daring to question their decision.

The temporarily stranded passenger managed to catch the next flight out to Sacramento.

  • You don’t have to assault someone to be thrown off an airplane. Even kissing your partner will do.

Southwest Airlines kicked Leisha Hailey–who not only played a lesbian in Showtime’s The L-Word series but is one–and her girlfriend off a flight to Los Angeles.

Their crime?  Kissing.

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.

KGB AIRWAYS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Self-Help, Social commentary on June 7, 2016 at 12:02 am

With the summer tourism season now on, tens of thousands of Americans will be flying across the country to visit with loved ones.

And many of them will become the victims of KGB Airways.  

In truth, many airline personnel treat passengers the way KGB agents once treated Soviet citizens–with the arrogance that comes from holding near-absolute power over the lives of others.

Consider the following:

  • From the website of American Airlines:

ESSENTIAL NEEDS DURING EXTRAORDINARY DELAYS

In the case of extraordinary events that result in very lengthy onboard delays, American will make every reasonable effort to ensure that essential needs of food (snack bar such as Nutri-Grain®), water, restroom facilities, and basic medical assistance are met.

We are not responsible for any special, incidental or consequential damages if we do not meet this commitment.

Translation:  On one hand, American promises that it will try to ensure that “essential needs of food, water, restroom facilities and basic medical assistance are met” during “very lengthy onboard delays.” On the other hand, if they “do not meet this commitment,” that’s just the passengers’ tough luck.

ACCEPTANCE OF PASSENGERS

American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point, for one or several reasons, including but not limited to:  

  1. Compliance with government requisition of space.
  2. Action necessary or advisable due to weather, or other conditions beyond American’s control.
  3. Refusal to permit a search of person or property for explosives or for deadly, controlled, or dangerous weapons, articles or substances.
  4. Refusal to produce positive identification upon request.
  5. Your physical or mental condition is such that in American’s sole opinion, you are rendered or likely to be rendered incapable of comprehending or complying with safety instructions without the assistance of an attendant.
  6. Your conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent.  
  7. Appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
  8. Attempt to interfere with any member of the flight crew.
  9. Have a communicable disease that has been determined by a federal public health authority to be transmissible to other persons in the normal course of flight.
  10. Refuse to obey instructions from any flight crew member.
  11. Have an offensive odor not caused by a disability or illness.
  12. Are clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers or are barefoot.
  13. Engage in any action, voluntary or involuntary, that might jeopardize the safety of the aircraft or any of its occupants.

Translation: “American may refuse to transport you, or may remove you from your flight at any point” for just about any reason it wants to give.

Click here: Conditions of carriage – Contract of transportation – American Airlines

DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS AND DIVERSIONS

American Airlines will provide customers at the airport and onboard an affected aircraft with timely and frequent updates regarding known delays, cancellations and diversions and will strive to provide the best available information concerning the duration of delays and to the extent available, the flight’s anticipated departure time.

We are not responsible for any special, incidental or consequential damages if we do not meet this commitment.

Translation: On one hand, American promises to give customers “timely and frequent updates regarding known delays, cancellations and diversions.” On the other hand, American absolves itself from any damages “if we do not meet this commitment.”

And how does all this translate into action?

  • In late March, 2012, a woman was barred from boarding an American Airlines flight because its staff disliked her choice of clothing. She was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words: “IF I WANTED THE GOVERNMENT IN MY WOMB, I’D F— A SENATOR.”

After taking a seat she was told by a flight attendant that she needed to speak with the captain, who found the T-shirt “offensive.”  He said she would have to change before she could re-board the plane.

The passenger claims this interaction caused her to miss her connection: Her luggage was checked and “changing shirts without spending money wasn’t an option.”

Business Insider ranked American Airlines 8th on a list of The 19 Most Hated Companies In America.

  • In July, 2011, Malinda Knowles, a 27-year-old financial consultant, was kicked off a JetBlue flight at JFK Airport in New York because of her attire–a baggy blue T-shirt and denim shorts.

A male JetBlue employee walking down the aisle noticed Knowles. He told her he didn’t think she was wearing enough clothing. An argument erupted when the employee put his walkie-talkie between her legs to see if she was wearing shorts underneath. When Knowles objected, the JetBlue worker brought her off the plane and to a hangar.

There she modeled for the employees, showing that she was wearing shorts. She returned to the plane, but the same employee once again approached her and said: “The captain is refusing to fly you today. We need to remove you from the flight.”

After waiting four hours for another flight, she arrived in Florida. Apparently the crew of that plane didn’t have any problem with her attire.

Knowles has since filed a lawsuit against JetBlue.

“FAMILY VALUES” = HYPOCRITICAL SLOGANEERING

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 26, 2016 at 12:33 am

In 1992, Republicans wanted to re-elect President George H.W. Bush, who had succeeded Ronald Reagan in 1989.

But they had a problem: Whipping up voter enthusiasm for him.

Bush wasn’t charismatic like Reagan, so he didn’t inspire the intense loyalty Reagan had.  He was seen as drab, even wimpy.

George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, 1989 official portrait.jpg

George H.W. Bush

Ironically, Bush had performed heroically during World War II.  

On August 1, 1944,  Bush piloted one of four aircraft that attacked the Japanese installations on Chichijima. 

Bush’s aircraft was hit by flak and his engine caught on fire. Despite this, Bush completed his attack and released bombs over his target, scoring several damaging hits.

Reagan, by contrast, spent World War II on a Hollywood sound stage as part of the First Motion Picture Unit, turning out propaganda films to boost civilian morale. 

Yet he was seen by millions as a genuine war hero.

Then there was the stalled economy.  

Early in his term, Bush faced leftover deficits spawned by the Reagan years. Reagan had given tax-cuts to the rich, bloated the military budget and cut government programs to aid the poor and middle class.

As a result, the deficit had grown by 1990 to $220 billion, three times its size since 1980.

In 1991, many corporations, claiming the need to reorganize, laid off hundreds of thousands of workers, who had believed that their jobs were secure.  

By mid-year, the unemployment rate reached 7.8%, the highest since 1984. In September 1992, the Census Bureau reported that 14.2% of all Americans lived in poverty.

Bush’s Democratic challenger in 1992 was Bill Clinton, who had been the Governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981 and 1983 to 1992.  At 45, Clinton was young, vigorous, and for many evoked memories of an equally young and vigorous John F. Kennedy.

To overcome these disadvantages, Republicans needed a way to generate enthusiasm among their base.

The answer: “Family values.”

20160510edshe-b.jpg (1372×889)

Supposedly this meant support for values traditionally learned or reinforced within a family, such as those of high moral standards and discipline.

In reality, it was a Right-wing excuse for the failed economic policies of the Reagan-Bush years.

By citing “a decline in family values,” Bush’s re-election team could blame jobless Americans for their own misery: “If only you had lived up to the high standards set by your Republican superiors, you wouldn’t now be in this position.”

“Family values” carried a sexual subtext as well.  Since abortion had became legal in 1973, Republicans had appropriated re-criminalizing it as their pet sex-related issue.

During the Reagan years, Attorney General Edwin Meese had launched a crackdown on pornography. And much of Reagan’s support had come from sexually-obsessed Christian Right evangelists such as Jerry Falwell of the “Moral Majority.”

Thus, a Bush supporter held up a sign reading, “Woody Allen is Clinton’s Adviser on Family Values,” at the 1992 Republican Presidential convention. Allen had recently become notorious for an affair with the adopted stepdaughter of his lover, actress Mia Farrow.

The slogan wasn’t enough to get Bush re-elected. Bill Clinton was elected President.  

But “family values” lived on for decades as Republican code language for: “Only Republicans are sexually upright.”

Throughout the eight-year Clinton Presidency, Republicans focused on his longtime reputation as a sex-crazed Rasputin. When the news broke that Clinton had been diddling a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, Republicans demanded his resignation.

When Clinton refused to resign, they unsuccessfully tried to impeach him.

Meanwhile, they ignored the extramarital affairs of their own members–such as then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich had been boffing a mistress while demanding Clinton’s impeachment for similar adultery.

After Gingrich resigned from the House of Representatives in 1999, his would-be successor, Bob Livingston, was forced to resign from Congress. He had been outed by Hustler publisher Larry Flynt as a serial philanderer.

In 1996, Republicans pushed through Congress the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defined marriage for federal purposes as the union of one man and one woman.  It allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages allowed in other states.

DOMA was advertised as a necessary defense against “predatory homosexuals” who, like vampires, were thought to be preying on innocent heterosexuals.

A major backer of anti-gay legislation was Dennis Hastert, Republican Speaker of the House from 1999 to 1007.  

Dennis Hastert

In 2006, Hastert spearheaded a bill to toughen punishments for sex crimes against children.

“We’ve all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children,” said Hastert. “Protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists.”

On April 29, 2016, a federal judge repeatedly damned Hastert as a “serial child molester” for sexually abusing several boys he coached on the Yorkville High School wrestling team in the 1960s and 1970s.

Having targeted the poor, blacks, Hispanics, women and gays, Republicans are now training their sights on transgenders.

And Target Corporation’s April 19 announcement that its customers could pick the bathroom that “matched their gender identity” gave Republicans a new venue for their attacks on sex-related issues.

There is no known epidemic of transgender attacks on heterosexuals in bathrooms. But Republicans will ride this issue so long as there are citizens willing to believe it.

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