Saturday, February 23, 2002

Music Doldrums

The LA Times has a story about the state of the record industry. They are repeating the industry mantra of pirating a bit much, but they are careful to lay the blame on the methods of the industry as well.

"It's grim, the most grim it's been since I've been around the business," is the flat appraisal of David Geffen, perhaps the most famous music mogul of the last three decades. "It's a very, very challenging time."

The challenges come from all sides, but each cuts to the bottom line. Music sales are sagging, hundreds of layoffs have demoralized record company staffers and superstar artists have united for a public revolt against the industry's business practices.

And, more troubling in the long run, consumers are embracing new technologies that threaten to scatter the industry's musical commodities like coins spilled on a busy street. Last year, blank CDs outsold all music albums in the U.S. for the first time, and, as the Napster saga showed, tens of millions of fans are willing to grab their music online without paying. Jim Guerinot, a top rock manager, called the combined issues "a perfect storm" that could threaten the creakiest of the industry's corporate ships.


I hadn’t heard that CD blanks outsold albums last year, but I don’t think that necessarily means that piracy is what is killing the record industry. And if you are interested my solution to the problem is presented in the archive. I'm in favor of using technology instead of fighting it.
Differences Of Opinion
The sorry state of European military forces explains in part their current political attitude. If you lack the ability to carry out powerful offensive operations you don’t go around calling your enemies evil. First, it plays poorly domestically. You tell the voters something is evil and then precede to do nothing about it you are not going to do very well in the next election.

Second, in the diplomatic arena if you lack the ability to threaten your options are very limited. You must engage in dialog and hope you can persuade the evil doers to moderate their behavior.

We can see this pattern in action in Yugoslavia. Told it was a European problem, the United States stayed out. The Europeans tried over the course of several years to negotiate a solution. Without the threat of force, that proved to be futile. Even the claims of ethnic cleansing failed to force military action.

American foreign policy during the Clinton years behaved in a similar fashion. The administration was careful to avoid making anyone out to be too evil. Without a powerful direct threat to the nation this seemed like a reasonable approach.

Now America feels a direct threat, and the gloves are off. Europe still does not feel a direct threat, and even if they did they lack the military capabilities to take action.

Europe is concerned that America is going to drag them into a fight and that a direct threat to them will develop. In part they are projecting their previous view of President Bush as a cowboy leader. If you perceive the leader of the free world as an idiot, you are naturally going to take offence at any policy he puts forward.

The United States does not have to have support from Europe to follow through on our war on terrorism. But it would be easier with support from Europe. We should make clear our goals and intentions. We should not back down in defining evil as evil. They will complain and drag their feet, but in the end I suspect they will be on board if only to have a say in the post war world.

Friday, February 22, 2002

France

I’ve picked on Germany and Britain, now it is time for France. Again, due to the inability of Strategy Page to maintain links, I’m posting more of this than I normally would:

According to a shocking series of investigative reports, the French military is little more than a hollow shell and could not defend the country if called upon to do so. The French defense budget, now about $28 billion, has fallen to 11% of the government's budget compared to 15% a decade ago. The budget has been slashed repeatedly since the end of the Cold War, and what little money there is has been sucked into high-profile programs including the Rafale fighter, the troublesome carrier Charles de Gaulle, and the Leclerc "starship" tank. Even worse, converting the military to an all-volunteer force has sent manpower costs through the roof. Without enough money, the shortages show up in training (all but non-existent) and maintenance. Half of the helicopters and a third of the tanks are out of action due to a lack of maintenance funds.

The carrier Charles de Gaulle has become the laughingstock of the European naval community due to its frequent breakdowns and design flaws, and is known to its own crew as "the ship of the damned". At some air bases, half of the planes are grounded for lack of parts. Only 32 of the 76 ships of the French Navy are reported ready
for sea. One French ship suffered a breakdown at sea and put into a British port, where it was repaired within a day; the same repairs would have taken a month in a French shipyard due to bureaucratic disorganization.

The Rafale fighter is a triumph of extravagance over substance. The French insisted on building their own plane out of national pride, but the Rafale is late and doesn't meet its specifications. Any chances of export sales are remote as the Eurofighter and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter cost less than half as much. The French government has never done the one thing every other NATO government has done: threatened to take its business to foreign manufacturers if the domestic ones don't keep the prices down and deliver on schedule.


The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is sad tale. It currently represents the only European carrier capable of operating non-VTOL/STOL aircraft. As noted above it has had one problem after another. It took longer to build than expected. The nuclear power system, adapted from that used on French submarines, is underpowered and the ship is slower than the ship it replaced, the Foch. The reactor has leaked radiation. The ship had engine problems during its initial trials. Then after they were fixed, one of the ship's propellers cracked on trials and the ship had to be towed back to port. The original flight deck was too short for rapid air operations. The ship will operate the new Rafale fighter, but they are not ready yet so her air consists of older Super Entendards. And the planes being used for early warning are American E-2 Hawkeye aircraft.

I don't want to be too hard on the French. Building a 40,000 ton carrier is not easy and I believe they have not built a warship that big since their last carrier was constructed 30 years ago. But if the military budget stays as low as it is now, I would wonder how effective the ship will be. Carrier air operations require lots of practice and if the Charles de Gaulle spends most of its time in port being fixed or saving money French pilots will pay the price.
No More Plastic Numbers
News to me, probably because I haven't flown them since 9/11, but Southwest Airlines is being forced to abandon its 30 year history of issuing plastic number boarding cards to passengers:

Instead, passengers are receiving cardboard documents, displaying the passenger's name, date, flight origin and destination, flight number, and confirmation numbers. The goal is to make sure the carrier knows who is boarding its flights.

The random searches are also playing havoc with their pick your own seat policy. The folks being searched end up boarding the aircraft last. This would be extremely annoying if you showed up early to make sure you'd get to pick a good seat.
Welcome To 1939
Reading about the state of the European military establishment led me to ponder historical parallels. The best analogy is the interwar period between the two world wars:

Interwar years: End of First World War leads to military spending cutbacks and Western reluctance to risk another war.

1991 to 2001: Victory in the Cold War has opinion leaders and politicians discussing all of the uses of the peace dividend. Military spending is cut back in Europe and the United States.

Interwar years: Regional conflicts breakout (Spanish Civil War, Italian invasion of Ethiopia, Japanese invasion of China). West seeks diplomatic solutions via League of Nations and economic embargos.

1991 to 2001: Regional conflicts breakout (Yugoslavia/Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda Genocide, Iraqi no fly zone enforcement, Palestine). West seeks diplomatic solutions via United Nations and economic embargos. Use of military power is reluctant and sparing.


Interwar years: Dangerous leaders take power, announcing their plans in advance (Hitler, Mein Kampf). West ignores warnings.

1991 to 2001: Dangerous leaders announce their plans in advance (Bin Laden, declares war on West). West ignores warnings.

Interwar years: International treaties designed to guarantee peace are broken (Versailles, Locarno, Washington and London Naval Agreements) with no meaningful attempt to enforce them. Germany re-arms.

1991 to 2001: International agreements designed to guarantee peace are broken (Gulf War cease fire, Oslo Accords) with no meaningful attempt to enforce them. Iraq re-arms.

Interwar years: West passes by easy opportunities to squash problems before they escalate (German advance into Rhineland in 1935 could have easily been countered by French Army).

1991 to 2001: United States misses several opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden.

Interwar years: Shock of German aggression leads West to conclude that Hitler’s demands will be never ending. Re-armament begins in earnest.

1991 to 2001: WTC attack points out the need to beef up the military. United States and major European nations begin to increase defense spending.

Interwar years: Military technology and doctrine advances render much existing military equipment (battleships and fortifications) and planning (linear defense and naval planning) obsolete. Much of the technology is driven by the civilian market (aircraft development and production techniques) rather than by military planning and strategy.

1991 to 2001: Military technology and doctrine advances render much existing military equipment (aircraft unable to deliver precision weapons and inadequate C3I equipment) and planning (Anti-Soviet focus) obsolete. Much of the technology is driven by the civilian market (information technology and advanced materials) rather than by military planning and strategy.

Welcome to 1939.

Naturally the analogy only goes so far. We are fortunate that at the moment we do not face a militarily powerful enemy. And there are some bad Evil Doers out there, but none yet seem to be at the order of magnitude of a Hitler or Stalin. But on the flip side it takes much longer today to build military power than it did in 1938. A major aircraft program can take 15 years to move from design to squadron size deployments. Major warships take 10 years to complete. Wars are much more come as you are affairs than they were in 1939.

What lessons can be drawn from this? I suggest two for starters. First, allowing your military to atrophy due to insufficient spending levels is a mistake. It wears the guts out of the force. You hemorrhage good people to the more advanced and interesting civilian economy making it that much more expensive when it comes time to fix the problem.

Second, it is better to step on a problem early rather than let it fester. Regional problems have a way of growing. People who announce they intend to kill you sometimes actually mean it. And some of them have more principles than you do and won’t compromise their view that you are the Devil just because you talk nice to them and give them some money.
European Airlift In Perspective
As a follow up to the A400M story below, I started to wonder how much the 169 plane force could haul. According to the Defense Systems Daily

As a point of reference, the entire proposed European buy of A400M would be needed to deploy and sustain a single MLRS regiment, assuming standard NATO daily ammunition expenditure rates.

That reference is from an article on medium weight combat forces. These are the units that deploy light armored vehicles instead of heavy tanks. The sort of unit that can overrun all of Belgium. The article notes that while the vehicles are lighter, if you want any sort of firepower you are stuck with the same logistical problems a heavy unit faces. It seems that the A400M is just enough to get Europe into trouble, but not enough to send a decisive force.
Imploding European Defense
Guess this is my theme-o-the-day. The Defense Systems Daily, using Belgium as an example, says that many European countries reduced funding for the military to the point of collapse:

The major change was the ending of the independence of Belgium's air force, which has now become merely a wing of the army. Effectively there will now be a single unified armed forces command, with all three services controlled operationally by a central body. At the same time, the army will lose all of its armour and artillery, and according to the Belgian MoD, the army will become "specialised in direct fire" and the forces as a whole will, "…..specialise in humanitarian activities."

What one sees in Belgium - and what one could well see elsewhere in some other European countries - is a defense capability that has been so systematically starved of funding that it cannot retain its existing shape and so starts to implode on itself. Below a certain critical level of defense spending it simply becomes impossible to equip and run even a half-decent armed force. Belgium has now fallen beneath this threshold.

We can forget about Belgium doing anything remotely useful outside of Belgium. With no armor Belgium can't even field a peace keeping force. You know you are in trouble when the UN blue hats carry more firepower than your national army. The author notes the Norway, Spain, the Netherlands, and Denmark are at or close to Belgium's spending levels and face the same choices.

The articles conclusion demonstrates why Europe as a unit lacks much authority on the subject of US military actions against Terror:

There is then another key factor: no matter what happened on 11 September, no matter the New World Order uncertainties that existed before 11 September, for most European countries there is simply no military threat which requires spending, and there isn't an appreciable one on the horizon. In effect, apart from France, the UK, Italy and Spain, Europe is starting to exit defense. Only those countries that have expanded horizons beyond the narrow confines of Europe have a need for defense - even though wise heads looking at reasonable threat options can see more than a few within geographical and time range of western Europe.

Pretty damning article. If the NATO countries aren't even able to defend themselves, we should be thinking twice about NATO expansion because if the new NATO members to the east get into trouble it will be the United States who has to save everyone's bacon.
More European Defense
Found another article about Germany's plans to purchase the A400M transport aircraft:

The eight nations of the A400M transport consortium have reached a stopgap measure to keep the program alive. The problem is Germany, which couldn't get its parliament to provide the required money. The Germans want 73 aircraft, which would cost them 8.6 billion Euros (about $7.8 billion), but parliament would only provide 5.1 billion Euros. The compromise plan is to call the 5.1 billion a "down payment" on all 73 aircraft, rather than full payment for the smaller number of aircraft parliament agreed to buy. The Germans would have to pay huge fines if parliament does not provide the rest of the money.

The member countries are Germany (73 planes), France (50 planes), Britain (25 planes), Turkey (10 planes), Belgium (7 planes), Portugal (3 planes), and Luxembourg (1 plane). According to Strategy Page:

The entire program will cost $18 billion; the first aircraft will be in service in 2008.

And if you are like me and wondered what the heck an A400M is, here is the Airbus site about it. Reminds me of a C-130, something they can buy off the shelf today. Of course it wouldn't support Airbus so that is a political non-starter in many places. Not that we don't play political games with the defense budget too!

Also a comment about Strategy Page, the source I'm referencing for much of this military stuff. Normally I'll link to an article and then print excerpts here. In the case of Strategy Page, often I end up quoting the entire article. This is for two reasons. First, they don't seem to maintain pages beyond two or three months. The articles eventually flow off the main page and then off the site. Second, they have no internal page anchors so I can not link to the specific article. I can only dump you onto the page- you have to scroll to find the material. I wish they did a better job of archiving info. They are a great source of military gossip. I just always wonder when I'm linking to them whether the material will be available when someone goes to fact check. I also don't like to rely on a single source, so I'm off to find supporting evidence.

UPDATE-

A better story on the go ahead decision for the plane from Defense Systems Daily.
Not That Daley
In real life I get asked this, so I'm guessing it is only a matter of time before I get it here too. So no, I am not related to any of the Chicago Daleys. At least very directly. Always possible that there is a connection there somewhere. If I was, I'd be sitting in my Chicago office as head of parking meters or something.

Just as well, Chicago can be cold. Almost froze to death in Chicago once, but that is another story.

If you have any other questions, you can drop me a line at cdaley AT pacbell.net. Just replace AT with that goofy a symbol they didn't teach you in penmanship. Am I the only one that had the Devil's own time learning how to write that?
School Vouchers
Both of my parents are in education so I've heard a lot of educator talk over the years. My mom used to teach (she is an administrator now) so we got all the NEA mailings. I used to read them, just out of curiosity. This was the same part of my life when my primary news source was the Wall Street Journal. So the union stuff seemed incredibly political to me. I was always asking my mom why the union was spending money taking positions on foreign policy matters. For example, I failed to see a strong connection between the role of a teacher’s union and strategic nuclear weapon policy.

In time I came to see a lot of what I had read was pure politics. Sometimes we go about demonstrating that in a round about way, as in this National Review article. The NEA likes vouchers for education as long as they inflict no pain on their members:

If day-care workers and university professors joined the National Educational Association in droves, the position of anti-voucher politicians beholden to the NEA finally might develop some consistency. As it is, this hodgepodge reveals the moral Chapter 11 status of those who gleefully relegate young black kids in Cleveland and beyond to the back of the opportunity bus.

The other thing I remember about the NEA was their holier than thou “Won’t someone think of the children” moralizing. It was a discordant note years before the Simpsons. And it seems to be it is pure propaganda, because they put their membership first, not the kids. That is what a union should do, up to a point, but doing it and then trying to claim everything is motivated by their love of the children leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
European Military Affairs
The ever powerful Instapundit has a reader comment about the state of European militaries. The reader, a gentleman named Thomas Roedl in part says (and do read the whole thing, it is interesting):

Taken in context, the German efforts are almost heroic, given that the government implementing them is a coalition of socialists and Greens. Should Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian centrist, win the national elections later this year, the country's commitment to the common defense will can only increase.

I have a lot of respect for the German military, due in no small part to the widely circulated picture of their ship flying the American flag with sailors holding up a sign saying "We stand with you" post 9/11. But the programs identified in Mr. Roedl's comments are not likely to close the huge gap in capabilities between the US and Germany.

  • Fifteen high-tech corvettes/frigates with drone surveillance capabilities designed for littoral operations. Small ships like the German corvettes are useful, especially as the US Navy is not designed for fighting in the confines of littoral waters. But these ships will require air support (read US carriers) and lack the sea legs for long distance patrols. I'd say it is more likely they will remain in European waters rather than be committed overseas.
  • Hydrogen-cell powered subs. Again, possible littoral use but being only equipped with torpedoes they are not very useful in most conflict scenarios.
  • New frigates. These are more likely to be used in distant waters. The US Navy has gone heavy building destroyers but not new frigates. The type of ships Germany is building will integrate well- US provides the heavy ships, allies the light ones. But remember that it is the superiority of the US Navy heavy destroyers, cruisers, and carriers that make the lighter frigates and corvettes useful.
  • seventy new heavy transport aircraft. Logistical support- critical to deployments and keeping them supplied but it points out how little logistical support for out of area operations the European NATO nations have.
  • Hundreds of new Eurofighter aircraft and Tiger attack helicopters. The Eurofighter does not have a great reputation. The Polish Air Force is looking for new aircraft and they have rejected the Eurofighter as not any better than the current F-16: "The Poles have evaluated every aircraft on the market. They found that the Eurofighter Typhoon offered very little more performance compared to old F-16s, but cost more than new F-35s due to the shorter production run.". Additionally it is worth noting that the Czech Republic picked the Swedish Gripen fighter instead of the Eurofighter and the Dutch joined the US JSF program instead of joining the Eurofighter group.

    Mr. Roedl also points out that:

    ...perhaps the world would be uncomfortable if the Germans got more warlike than they are at this point.

    He certainly has a point there, but it does much to undermine his previous arguments. If the largest economy in your block can't use its military in a warlike manner due to an uncomfortable past history how strong can you really be? All those assets being built are unlikely to go overseas if the Germans and the EU are unable to come to grips with their past. The rising tide of anti-Semitism does not point to that happening anytime soon.

    What of the rest of Europe? Mr. Roedl notes that the British are committed to build two aircraft carriers. True, and this will be a big boost to the Royal Navy. They currently operate the small carriers of the invincible class that can only operate helicopters and Harrier jump jets. The Harrier is an amazing bird but no match for a heavy fighter on a full deck carrier. Of course the British have yet to even pick the contractor for the job. The ships won't be ready until 2012 and 2015:

    Britain has agreed to select a primary contractor for its two new 45,000-ton aircraft carriers in 2003, since British Aerospace and Thales Naval Ltd have said it would be too expensive to keep them both in competition through 2005 (the original date). The ships are to enter service in 2012 and 2015; each will carry 40 Joint Strike Fighters.

    On the other hand right now the RAF can't find enough pilots to maintain air defense over England:

    The Royal Air Force (RAF) should have nearly 1,500 pilots but is currently short more than 100. The shortage is so bad that RAF officials this past week announced a financial incentive plan to keep the pilots it already has, while air crew were being brought in from the New Zealand Air Force to fill identified gaps.

    The reason New Zealand has aircrews is because they are eliminating their last fighter wing. Last year the story making the rounds was that the RAF was going after German Luftwaffe pilots as well to fill in gaps.

    The French Navy's new carrier the Charles De Gaulle is seriously flawed ship:

    The new French nuclear powered aircraft carrier, "Charles de Gaulle," has had no end of teething problems. Most were blamed on poor design and supervision during construction. But there are more subtle problems having to do with poor decisions made before construction even began. The carrier was to have had a top speed of 32 knots, which would make it easier for it's heavy jet warplanes to land. But the ship can only make a top speed of 28 knots. Not a big difference, unless you are landing on the deck. The reason for this is that, rather than design new nuclear power plants for the ships power plant, basically the same one already used in French nuclear submarine was employed. Someone miscalculated (finger pointing is still going on), and the carrier was never able to make its rated top speed. The power plant for the sub was not able to provide the necessary power for a large surface ship.

    On top of this, Europe has a distinct lack of precision guided weapons and long-range aircraft to deliver them. This puts them in the support role while the United States does the heavy work.

    The problem Europe is facing is that they are so far behind the United States in military power that they are strategically almost irrelevant. That makes it next to impossible to demand an equal position on the board. As long as that remains the case, the United States can largely ignore the noises from Europe. In the end, the national security of the United States is not going to be secured by European armed forces. Do we want their help? Of course, but we shouldn't expect much more any time soon.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Bush In China, China Over Here
President Bush is in China at the moment. The US/China relationship is one of those shaky ones because many of the things China represents are counter to American beliefs. OpinionJournal has an article today talking about efforts by the Chinese to repress the Falun Gong movement in America. The Chinese consulates and embassies here have spent time writting to cities that have issued proclamation recognizing Falun Gong. Here is an example from Santee, CA which is down San Diego way:

A little over a year ago, Mayor Randy Voepel received a letter from the newly arrived Chinese consul general in Los Angeles, Lan Lijun. Mr. Lan's letter began with a cheery greeting and rolled right along to describe the Falun Gong movement as a "doomsday" cult that creates "a panic atmosphere" and if left unchecked in America could end up "jeopardizing your social stability." Noting that China would "like to establish and develop friendly relations with your city"--and implying this would require complying with China's wishes--Mr. Lan's letter went on to urge that "no recognition and support in any form should be given to the Falun Gong" and urged banning them from registration as any kind of official organization.

Not so typical was Mr. Voepel's reaction. A Vietnam War veteran, he wrote back: "Your letter personally chilled me to my bones. I was shocked that a Communist Nation would go to this amount of trouble to suppress what is routinely accepted in this country. . . . I have the greatest respect for the Chinese people in your country and everywhere else in the world, but must be honest in my concern for the suppression of human rights by your government as evidenced by your request." Mr. Voepel then issued a mayoral proclamation commending the Falun Gong.


I know next to nothing of the Falun Gong. In fact I think the only fact I know about them is that they are being attacked by the Chinese government. I suppose they might be some sort of wacky cult. But on the other hand I know about the list of other things China has attempted to supress or silence ranging from parts of the internet to Chinese-American scholars and our spy plane.

One of the constant issues in foreign policy is how to deal with states that do not share your values. China is 1/5th of the world population. We certainly can not ignore them. But how close should we be to a country whose government routinely tramples on the liberties of its citizens?

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Star Trek Related
One of the most annoying, unrealistic things in Star Trek, at least the Next Generation, was that annoying Wesley kid. Guess what, the actor has a web site. And he is trying very hard to tell people that he is not the characters he played:

See, here is the thing: I don't take myself seriously.

At all. Not even a little bit. People (and by people, I mean Star Trek fans who were the inspiration for The Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons....you know who you are) have been dumping on me for over 10 years, and if I took myself too seriously, I'd probably be sitting in an Urn next to River Phoenix.


Worth a looksee.
The Well, D'uh! File
Man's pants prevent getaway:

Tallahassee Police Officer Seth Stoughton spotted Franklin about 11 p.m. standing by a fence on Kissimmee Street. Franklin's pants were down, and he had both hands in front of him. Stoughton suspected he was about to urinate.

When the officer shouted, Franklin yanked up his pants and turned to run.

"We prepare for a lot of stuff, but I'd never expected to see the man's pants on fire," Stoughton said. "His pocket was outlined in red, and it was clearly smoldering."

Apparently, Franklin had been smoking a Newport when he stopped to heed nature's call. Lacking anywhere to put his smoke, he'd just slipped it into his pocket.


That part is pretty good, but here is the Well, D'uh part:

The officer reported Franklin "smelled strongly of an alcoholic beverage and appeared intoxicated."
Campaign Reform Posterboy Wearing No Pants
When the AP headline reads McCain 'Tainted' by Telecom's Donations you know you've got trouble.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday that he had been "tainted" by donations from Global Crossing Ltd., but never acted improperly on behalf of the telecom firm.

McCain, who has received more money from Global Crossing than any other member of Congress, said he expected the Senate Commerce Committee to investigate the company as soon as it clears its schedule of Enron Corp. proceedings. McCain is the ranking Republican on the committee.


OK, so he didn't do anything wrong. Or did he:

McCain collected $31,000 from Global Crossing employees in March 1999 for his presidential campaign. That month, he urged the Federal Communications Commission to open the market for laying undersea fiber-optic cable, a market controlled by AT&T Corp. that Global Crossing was trying to penetrate.

McCain said the request was in line with his long-standing goal of industry deregulation. He said he never mentioned Global Crossing specifically to the FCC.


That sounds a lot worse than anything I've heard that was done for Enron. But Global Crossing is not getting the same level of press coverage. Is it because the people with their hands on the tar baby are Democrats and media darlings like McCain?
Not Your Typical Drunk Russians
United Airlines booted the St. Petersburg Philharmonic off flight to Los Angeles after members fail to heed crew's orders.

While on Flight 947, United officials said, many members of the group drank liquor from bottles they had brought on board, talked loudly and disturbed other passengers, and refused to sit or follow the crew's safety commands.

So no one in our new and improved Federal airport security system questioned why they had bottles of booze? Since some drinks will burn if ignited why isn't carried on alcohol prohibited? I would think it burns better than that guys shoe did.
Anyone Can Grow Up To Be President
This article has 3rd graders responses to what they would do if they were President (2nd to last item) including this one:

As far as letting off steam is concerned, Latasha Jones didn't mention golf or jogging. She said that at the end of her work day in the Oval Office, "I will go outside and howl." I guess working with Congress will do that to you.
Chick Back For The Playoff?
Chick Hearn's hip operation went well.

The ball of Hearn's right hip was replaced during the procedure, and Huddleston said Hearn was cracking jokes almost immediately afterward. "He told me, 'I see my foot is still pointing in the right direction,'" Huddleston said.

He might be back for the playoffs. With the way the Lakers are playing at the moment, it is probably better he isn't around to see it....

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

A Wave Of Spam
There's a mental picture you probably didn't want!

AT&T WorldNet internet service email is essentially down thanks to a wave of spam.
Bad News For Chick
Laker announcer Chick Hearn, scheduled to be back March 1st after a heart operation, fell on Sunday at a gas station and broke his hip. He will be in the hospital for a week and then must recover so his return date is now uncertain.

Get well Chick!

Monday, February 18, 2002

Travel Agents Vs. The Internet
Travel agents are upset at internet specials offered by airlines:

In a typical filing, Catherine Mann of Chaparral Travel in Tucson attaches printouts of CRS tickets and Internet searches that show, for instance, a $2,533 CRS fare for a Washington, D.C.-LAX round trip via New York versus $540 for the same flights and dates on Orbitz, the Internet travel site owned by five major airlines.

"My customers are being discriminated against because they do not have Internet access, do not use credit cards, prefer dealing with a human being or are unsure of how to wade through the hundreds of sites that promise 'the lowest fare available,'" she writes in her Jan. 23 filing. "These people, often elderly and on fixed income, are being punished by having to pay higher airline fares." (Airlines generally do not provide Internet-only fares to computer reservation systems but do provide them to Orbitz, a sore point for travel agents.)


This is stupid. Why should I have to subsidize travel agents if I don't use them. I think the last time I used a travel agent was perhaps 10 years ago. As long as airlines offer their lowest fares to those on the internet, those who phone the airlines, and those who buy directly from an airline ticket counter I see no problem. If I choose to do the work myself and make my own travel arrangements I should not have to pay the same amount as someone who uses a travel agent. The travel agents would have all the tickets priced with their commission, and my only option would be who got the commission, the agent or the airline.
Blogger Problems
Blogger has eaten two posts in the last five minutes, so I'm signing off for today in hopes that things will improve tomorrow.
Seen It Coming, Part II
Now Miss Cleo herself is being sued by the State of Florida:

Florida authorities announced a separate lawsuit, challenging the service's spokeswoman, Youree Dell Harris, known as ``Miss Cleo,'' to prove that she really is a renowned shaman from Jamaica. Harris appears on national television commercials promising insights into love, money and other personal matters

Is there some sort of Shaman Department in Jamaica that issues licenses? That will be an interesting case if it goes to trial. Oh, perhaps it will be on Court TV!
Getting Away From It All
Want a vacation where you don't have to worry about running into anyone you know? Try Midway Island.
Blogger Down
For whatever reason I could not access Blogger this morning until now. It is also running slowly.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

More Spam News
This study of spam by DSLReports is quite interesting. As someone who posts my email addresses on web pages I'm always looking for ways to decrease the amount of junk mail I receive. I have my mail program doing a lot of filtering, but you always want more when spam is involved.