Sunday, September 30, 2007

On This I Really Can't Be Firmer; That Country's Proper Name Is Burma

From today's paper: "The country -- the former Burma -- has roughly as many monks as soldiers."

I'd say that's part of the problem. But that's
beside the points, which are:

1. Why do the papers dutifully refer to that godforsaken place as Myanmar? You're not often going to often hear me in agreement with the White House, but I am this time. The name of the country is Burma. Myanmar is a label stuck on it in 1989 by the wack-job thugs who took over in the crazy military coup that still rules today. I don't care what the prissy style-books say, it's Burma.

2. On Sept. 25, 2007 (meaning, only last Tuesday), the Pacific Asia Travel Association put out a cheerful press release "Asia Pacific Tourism Continues to Break Records." True enough, and great! But without irony or footnote, the organization listed "Myanmar" as one of those happy go-to spots that "posted best-ever performances in 2006."

3. Well, you undoubtedly know this already, but if you have immediate Burma plans, cancel them!

In a warning issued last week, the State Department said that "U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Burma at this time." The warning went on:

"The scale of demonstrations by monks and Burmese citizen supporters in Rangoon, Mandalay, and other cities has grown and become more overtly political. Authorities have used gunfire and tear gas against demonstrators, have begun to restrict their movements, and have imposed a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The government has banned gatherings of more than five people. The situation remains fluid and an even harsher military reaction could occur at any time, particularly if the protests continue.

"We wish to remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to avoid areas of demonstrations and to exercise caution within the vicinity of any demonstrations. U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to Burma at this time. Given the fluidity of the current situation, the Department of State advises all U.S. citizens in Burma to monitor events closely, to exercise discretion when moving about, and to avoid any large public gatherings, any visible military presence, and any area cordoned off by security forces."

By the way, a reader insists the name of the country should be Myanmar, and I say it's Burma and the hell with it. The military thugs who changed the name from Burma don't get the benefit of a thumb-sucking copy desk colloquy in this space.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Hey, 1 Out of 3 Is Batting .333 In Baseball

The Times today has a story about a list of new questions in the civics test for qualification for citizenship.

Here are the three sample questions the report gave:

1. What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?

2. What does the president's cabinet do?

3. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?

I got Number 1 right, but answered "Nothing" to both Number 2 and Number 3, which apparently are incorrect answers, at least according to the credulous Citizenship and Immigration Services.


But...But There Will ALWAYS Be an Alabama

Quote of the day from the morning news:

"If Huntsville is in the blast zone, there is nothing we can do."

Your Homeland Security tax dollars at work.

For more fallout shelter fun ...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Is Dan Rather on the Discovery Channel?

It's my contention that war is the oldest and of course most extreme form of business travel. My first international business trip, then, was to Saigon in early 1968, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

It's always stuck in my craw that George Bush, the "Bring it on" warrior, managed to dodge Vietnam service thanks to the intervention of Daddy's pals -- and then even managed to be AWOL from a portion of his cushy stateside duty in the National Guard.

The fact that he did so without evident consequence, and now struts around posing as some sort of military patriot, is as irksome to me as the fact that his vice president, the deputy great warrior, got himself five draft deferments during the Vietnam era (saying he had "other priorities"), when other men of the generation were either doing their duty or taking principled stands against the war.

Bush and Cheney did neither. But man, do they flash those cheap flag pins as if someone had pinned Bronze Stars on their lapels.

And man, do they like to return salutes. Ever notice how Bush has the snappy salute down just right?

Can you imagine what Eisenhower would have thought of those two birds?

Anyway, now comes the matter of Dan Rather, suing his former employers at CBS News over the ruination of his career that followed the partially botched but nevertheless essentially accurate report on Bush's time being AWOL.

As a reporter, I've always liked old Dan. He's just tough and screwy enough to remind me of the days when the business was a barrel of laughs, but when its practitioners also believed they served an honest purpose other than making the numbers for Viacom's (or Gannett's) next quarterly report.

Some journalistic sad sacks clinging to their pathetic peerages within the ancien regime are having a good hoot at Rather's supposed folly and self-delusion.

But I doubt the suits are yukking it up all that much in the dark warrens of Viacom and CBS News. Dan Rather, who's pretty rich himself, says this isn't about the money, it's about the principle of the thing. (Incidentally, reversing the recent stand by the gene-pool-deleted Bancroft family of Dow Jones, who showed that it wasn't about the principle of the thing, it was about the money).

My guess is, Dan isn't looking to settle for a tidy sum and with a promise to keep his mouth shut while the papers get sealed and filed away.

If that's the case, the complaint moves into the pre-trial process, when the word they fear most at CBS News and its master Viacom will be: Discovery -- and it has nothing to do with the television network of the same name.

I think Sydney Blumenthal has it just right in Salon today. And the weekly New York Observer also has been seeing this clearly. Cue the orchestra for a little travelin' music. If the Rather complaint isn't summarily dismissed by a judge, and that's unlikely, CBS News is going for a ride.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Brazil: The Empty Skies

Why pilots of two aircraft on a collision course at 37,000 feet wouldn't necessarily see the other plane, explained by a commercial airline pilot. On my Brazil blog.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Effete Eastern Elite Liberal College Hands Iran Nitwit His Butt in a Basket

Two words on today's best news story:

Go Columbia.

And oh, shame on the Great Satan, the Columbia reception has caused the Iranian government to become all upset.

I also liked the New York Post headline: "Little Man on Campus."


More from the morning news:

--Am delighted to see that the vastly underappreciated Fifth Stooge, Stumpy, is returning to show business...

--I love it when editors of lame local newspapers that no longer actually make the effort to cover the news get into these sad, hand-wringing winge sessions over some friggin' comic strip. These editors love to throw around the term "family newspaper," as if Mom, Dad, Johnny and Susie still sprawl around the living room on Sundays with the funnies.

Various unhappy people have denounced the funnies since the Yellow Kid first came out.

And one thing I've learned when some local editor uses the term "family newspaper." It's always because he or she is deeply, deeply afraid of some reader being unhappy.

Hey Skippy: There's always going to be someone trying to intimidate you. Editors used to be able to take a little heat from sad sacks who have nothing better to do than worry about the comics.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Dead Mimes and Lame Excuses

(Right: And his last words were: " _________")

(Left): A newspaper lady explains that it was deadlines, not pusillanimity, that caused it to downplay a big anti-war rally in Washington and up-play a small pro-war one. Nothing to do with being afraid to report it honestly. Really. No, it was all about deadlines and how hard it is to count a crowd. Honestly.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Man in the Outfit, He Ain't No Cowboy

Top is George Bush in characteristic cowboy pose. Left is Nicolas Sarkozy, the publicity-savvy city-slicker French president, whose supporters sometimes referred to him as the "man on the white horse" during his campaign.

As I have said here before, that ain't no horse Sarkozy is on. It is a pony. And Cowboy Nic -- as is clear in the video from which this still is taken (sorry, no link available) -- is barely able to stay mounted at a slow canter, and yanks on the poor pony's mouth to boot.

Still, at least M. Sarkozy isn't afraid to get on a pony, even if it's little more than the bravado a kid would show if his parents arranged for pony rides at his 8th birthday party.

President George Bush likes to style himself as a cowboy. He has the hat and the fancy boots and the belt and that gol-durn Texas twang. We see by his outfit that he wants to be a cowboy.

But as has also been said here before, the man can't ride a horse, which is the absolutely first thing that a real cowboy, by definition, must do. He is afraid of horses. He rides a bike instead.

We have word from the former Mexican president, Vincente Fox, who once tried to get Cowboy George on a horse during a visit. Bush is a "windshield cowboy" who's afraid of horses, Fox says in his new book.

Incidentally, can we please stop referring derisively to things like "cowboy diplomacy" or snorting about "cowboys" like Bush.

According to Gene Autry's code, that man ain't no cowboy.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

But I Don't Want to Fly With Edna!

There are some fights I'm simply not going to get into lightly, and one of them is the it's-on-dude brawl between the commercial airline industry and the business-aviation industry.

But I do need to say something about Edna, the fictitious star of a new ad campaign by the Air Transport Association (ATA), the trade group for commercial airlines. That's Edna above, with the affable Jim May, the president of the trade group. Here's the annoying ad.

Edna supposedly represents those of us who do not fly business jets (I very infrequently get to ride on a demo flight. But the last business jet I flew on crashed over the Amazon a year ago, though through no fault of the pilots).

Anyway, The ATA is clearly quite pleased with this giggly nitwit Edna, whose message is "Tell Congress to stop making Edna ... subsidize corporate jets!" and "Edna likes wearing big wigs, not subsidizing them!"

Edna, to my mind, evokes the notion that Americans keep getting dumber.

It amazes me that domestic airlines -- whose major customers are business travelers -- would use this kind of intelligence-insulting advertising to address a serious aviation issue that most business travelers have genuine interest in.

I hate to say it, but to my mind, Edna represents exactly what the airlines think of us. They think we're giddy and stupid, like Edna, who says things like "Fiddlesticks!"

Hey Edna: fiddle this, as they would say on my old block.

As a business traveler, I don't want to be flying with Edna. Edna (and no offense to the actress who plays her) is who the airlines think we are. I'm pretty sure you could sell Edna on a Nigerian lottery deal, or at least a sub-prime mortgage. You could certainly sell her on a virtually worthless paper voucher for a canceled flight.

Here, by the way, is what it's like to be on a stranded flight (and there have been literally thousands of them this year).

No wonder those who can are taking the business-jet express. Jayzus, I crashed in the Amazon, but at least I didn't have to put up with Edna in the jungle.

Here's the ATA position on the matter of aviation funding, currently under review in Congress.

And here is the position of the National Business Aviation Association, in Congressional testimony by Ed Bolen, the president of the National Business Aviation Association, which will have its annual convention next week in Atlanta.

Edna ain't coming.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Warning: Do Not Try This Anywhere But Home

I'm always amazed at the creative energy flashing around the Internet.

I love this one, which is currently making the rounds, but I wouldn't actually try it on a plane or a train, assuming you actually had a wireless connection going. {Later update: What was I thinking. Obviously, all you have to do it right click the link and you have it without the live connection, as several readers noted}

If you are sitting next to someone who irritates you on a plane or train.
Follow these instructions:

Quietly and calmly open up your laptop case.
Remove your laptop.
Start up.
Make sure the guy who is annoying you, can see the screen.
Close your eyes and tilt your head up to the sky.
Then hit this link:

Click here:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Southwest Sharia: Air Taliban 'Apologizes,' Then Insults Menopausal Women

(Right: bumper sticker)

On the happy-talk Web site of Southwest Airlines there now appears the following apology, of sorts, to Kyla Ebbert, the college student who was humiliated by a Southwest Airlines fashion cop named Keith who made a scene about her "inappropriate" outfit, which Southwest's sniggering flacks have reduced to "her now infamous mini-skirt." (See my posts starting Sept. 7):

"DALLAS, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- In classic Southwest Airlines flair, CEO Gary Kelly today made a public apology to one of its Customers whose trip several months ago has become the subject of recent television and newspaper commentary. Company President Colleen Barrett has reached out to the Customer directly, and Kelly issued Kyla Ebbert an apology and invitation to again fly on Southwest as she taped a television show.

"From a Company who really loves PR, touche to you Kyla! Some have said we've gone from wearing our famous hot pants to having hot flashes at Southwest, but nothing could be further from the truth. As we both know, this story has great legs, but the true issue here is that you are a valued Customer, and you did not get an adequate apology. Kyla, we could have handled this better, and on behalf of Southwest Airlines, I am truly sorry. We hope you continue to fly Southwest Airlines. Our Company is based on freedom even if our actions may have not appeared that way. It was never our intention to treat you unfairly and again, we apologize."

Kelly took an additional step and is sharing his direct comments about the incident by recording ads for national radio. Those comments detail a national fare sale launched today featuring "mini-skirt" fares."

{MY COMMENT -- Three things:

1. Southwest offered Ms. Ebbert two free tickets in its backhanded apology. (Yeah, and second prize is FOUR free tickets). Just a day before the airline was forced to back down on Friday, its CEO, Gary Kelly, had said an apology wouldn't be forthcoming. "I just can't do that to the customer-service supe [supervisor]. He handled the situation discreetly and with patience and he did not deny her boarding," Kelly said, giving Keith the Fashion Cop the old Attaboy.

2. On its Web site with the giddy announcement about the "apology"/fare sale, a Southwest executive refers customers to the comments section, in which the following words, among others, are used by some readers to describe Ms. Ebbert: "Skank." .. "Harlot" .. "Slutty." Also, one comment on the Southwest site suggests that if women in miniskirts are allowed to fly, Southwest should supply "Lysol and alcohol wipes" in every row of seats.

3. Also, note how the happy-talk folks at Southwest, in sort of apologizing to young Ms. Ebbert and linking it to a fare sale, have in the process insulted menopausal women -- equating bad treatment of young women with "having hot flashes." I don't think Keith the Fashion Cop's problem, and Southwest's refusal to apologize till finally forced to do so by public ridicule, was a consequence of middle-aged "hot flashes." In fact, the airline seems to be equating poor corporate behavior with female middle-age. And by the way, what's with that scary Teutonic capitalizing of common nouns like company and customer?}


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Southwest Sharia: Air Taliban Strikes Again

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant made a 21-year-old woman cover herself with a blanket because the flight attendant complained that her halter dress was too skimpy when she boarded a flight. The report on KNBC-TV in Los Angeles is the second in the last week about young women being humiliated by Southwest because their clothing was deemed inappropriate. (See my post of Sept. 9.)

The woman, Setara Qassim, told KNBC-TV that on a flight home to Burbank from Las Vegas a flight attendant told her to put a sweater on because she didn't like her outfit . The temperature was over 100 degrees. “Why would I pack a sweater in the heat?” Ms. Qassim asked (risking, in my opinion, being hauled down to Guantanamo for possible seditious interference with a flight crew not to mention violation of Southwest Sharia.)

So she had to wrap a blanket around herself to be able to fly.

That report follows one last week about a 23-year-old college student, Kyla Ebbert, who was humiliated by a male agent named Keith on a Southwest plane in San Diego because, Snippy the Fashion Cop said, her clothing was inappropriate. What was inappropriate, she asked. “All of it,” Snippy the Fashion Cop said.

Southwest, many people might recall, is an airline that once made its strewardesses dress in hot pants and boots.

Leave it to the Associated Press, by the way, to find the most precious possible perch from which to scold. The A.P. story on Ms. Qassim’s encounter quotes one “Lynda White, who teaches etiquette classes and calls herself "The First Lady of Manners." The A.P .reports that this worthy feels that “young people have gotten lax on what to wear and how to act -- possibly influenced by Hollywood stars. She recommends 'business-casual' outfits for the plane because you might be seated next to a potential employer or business contact. If you wear provocative clothing, tattoos, or you smell of alcohol or cigarettes, who's going to believe you?" she said.

Hey A.P., as they would have said on my old block, “Tattoo this!”


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

R.I.P. Alex: Parrot and Road Warrior

R.I.P. Alex the Parrot, dead at 31.

And I do mean rest in peace, little fella. Because it seems to me that that magnificent critter spent a lot of his short life (African gray parrots often live 60 years or more) being studied, importuned, drilled and displayed on behalf of parrot research.

Alex, it seemed to me, led a stressful life. I mean, the poor guy was probably on the road more than I am.

You know about Alex , the world's most famous parrot.

On the Alex Foundation Web site today, at the page for ordering Alex merchandise like coffee cups and tote bags, I am sad to see the bird's death obliquely referred to as "the events of Sept. 7." Come on, Alex Foundation. Alex himself could have come up with better words to convey the simple fact that he died on Sept. 7.

Irene Pepperberg, the scientist who owned and trained Alex and who runs the Alex Foundation, said he was a very hard worker. "Someone was working with him 8 to 12 hours every day of his life," she told the Boston Globe after the bird died.

Yes, Alex was amazing in the way he could comprehend number sequences and figure out patterns. Anyone who says Alex wasn't exhibiting cognitive skills wasn't paying attention. You didn't need psychologists with clipboards to prove that Alex spoke a language, though of course one of the values of the research is to document the cognitive abilities of a parrot rather than just assert them anecdotally.

Alex knew more than 100 words -- but lots of African gray parrots know that many and more.

As I write this, our four-year-old African gray, Rosie, is downstairs singing her favorite song, which my wife and I taught her after she began repeating "Rosie is a goofy bird." It goes [to the tune of Tra Ra Ra BOOM dee Yay]:

"Rosie is a goofy bird,
Petey is a goofy bird,
Nancy is a goofy bird,
Joesharkey is a goofy bird;

Tra ra ra BOOM dee yay!"

(et cetera)

Petey is our big blue-and-gold macaw, who speaks about 15 words to Rosie's vocabulary of well over 100. Nancy is my wife. When not singing, Rosie refers to me as "Joesharkey -- BEEP," evidently because she loves to imitate the message on my business-phone answering machine and thinks my name is one word.

Neither Rosie nor Petey perform reliably on cue, by the way. Parrots who are not kept hungry tend not to do a great big song and dance to get a treat. They do the song and dance when they feel like it. Put a camera and a light in Rosie's face and she'll be as mum as a pigeon till she feels like making an observation, if at all.

Ours also are not long-distance travelers, though they like an occasional ride in the car. They are not what you would call hard workers. A mere trip to the vet gets our birds so worn out they sleep in exhaustion for extra hours, besides the 12 hours of shut-eye they normally get in a 24-hour period. God knows what constant trips to television stations and seminars would do to them.

Alex was just more of a road warrior than most parrots.

Anyone who has or knows an African gray loves to tell parrot stories.

Our friend Mark Delaney, who owns a parrot store in Red Bank, N.J. , won't sell a bird to someone he hasn't vetted for the potential for parrotsmanship. It takes a couple of visits, as a rule, to pass muster. Those who come in on a whim, say after watching Alex perform on television, are encouraged to give a lot of thought to what owning a parrot entails.

Mark has a lot of parrots, among them an African gray named Bubba. Some time ago, in another location, Mark had been grumbling with friends about a chronic problem with a squirrel skittering on his shop's roof. Bubba evidently liked the sound of the word "squirrel" (especially when uttered in the context of "commotion" or "drama," all of which parrots love).

Soon, Bubba began saying the following:

"Bubba is a squirrel."

And Mark would say, "No, Bubba is a bird."

And the bird would insist, "Bubba is a squirrel."

This went on for several weeks until one day Bubba compromised and said:

"Bubba is a squird."

Alex isn't the only parrot who seemed to speak a language, rather than to just repeat words, and to exhibit a sense of humorous word-play.

In our house, Rosie loves to talk. "See ya later," she says when I head up the stairs. "It's raining," she says when it rains. "Petey, do I have to jug you for screaming?" she tells the macaw when he screams too much, repeating what we say to him. (An inappropriate screaming session gets the macaw a 5-minute time-out in a quiet room, where he mutters to himself).

Rosie also sings and whistles and makes weird outer-space noises that we sincerely hope she picked up from a television cartoon, as she didn't get them from us.

She likes anything with a catchy beat. "B-b-b-b-b-b-b-Bird-Bird-Bird, Bird Is the Word" is a favorite. She loves show-tunes (she's partial to "Ohio" ["Why O Why O Why O; Why Did I Ever Leave Ohio?"] from "Wonderful Town," but she also whistles "Many a Fine Day" from "Oklahoma," with approximate key changes and vibrato embellishments). She does part of the coloratura aria, "Poor Wandering One," from "Pirates of Penzance." (The professional operatic version, not that musically awful Joe Papp/Linda Ronstadt version). Actually, she does just the high notes, but she hits the triplets dead-on.

Last year, before our nephew graduated from the Naval Academy, we taught her to sing "Anchors Aweigh," but she liked the "Hey! Hey! Hey!" part so much that by graduation day she had shortened the verse down to just "Anchors Aweigh My Birds -- Hey! Hey! Hey!"

And yes, she changed "my boys" to "my birds" on her own, without prompting, which sounds like language to me.

An appreciation of parrots in general comes with the Mark Delaney advisory:

Parrots are intensely loyal creatures who bond deeply with owners and are bereft if that bond is broken, so an owner has a long-term responsibility to commit to a parrot. Parrots are sloppy and noisy and can be demanding and temperamental. They can bite, especially when alarmed. They can't be left alone for long periods of time like cats. They crave attention. They thrive on drama. They chew wood, including furniture. Like the perpetual three-year-olds that they are, they repeat things you'd just as soon they not repeat.

One does not undertake parrot ownership lightly and without an ethical commitment to the bird. We're already grooming a grandson, 3, to inherit our two birds, who adore him.

When either my wife or I are away on a business trip, the traveler has to call home at night and talk to the birds on the speaker-phone. If you're sitting next to me in an airport departure gate and hear me saying into my cell-phone "I love you, Petey-bird" -- please know that I'm addressing a parrot. I didn't actually name a kid Petey-bird or Rosie-bird, like Lyndon Johnson might have.

I have to go. Rosie is downstairs shrieking "Help me! Help me!" -- which she picked up from some television cartoon that I let her watch. Petey is yelling one of the few phrases he knows: "Come on back!" -- and I don't want the neighbors to call 911.

Adios, little Alex.

Or as Petey likes to sometimes shriek maniacally: "Bye bye!!!! Bye bye!!!"


Monday, September 10, 2007

Brazil Crash: The CPI Report

[Left, the Amazon crash site where the Gol 737 went down with 154 aboard. Right, the damaged business jet after its emergency landing last Sept. 29 at an Amazon air strip.]

Here (and also on my Brazil blog) is a link to the 170-page report by the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry in Brazil on the Sept. 29 crash and the ensuing crisis in Brazilian aviation. The English translation is by Richard Pedicini, in Sao Paulo, who has been kindly translating for this blog since last November. Mr. Pedicini's Translator's Notes indicate where Brazilian authorities made errors of fact in the investigation and in their summary report, and where the Portuguese translation of English-language cockpit recordings of the two American pilots was imprecise or, in a few cases, inaccurate.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Airline PR 101: Humiliate the Customer

Here is the wicked woman and her sinful outfit. (Photo from the San Diego Union-Tribune)


My jaw dropped.

Rather than apologizing for the actions of a nitwit customer-service agent/Taliban-trainee named Keith, Southwest Airlines appears to be piling on Kyla Ebbert, the 23-year-old the college student (and okay, let's get it over with: part-time Hooters waitress) who was humiliated on a Southwest Airlines airplane in San Diego by snippy Keith, who tried to throw her off because she was dressed inappropriately.

Keith made a public scene on the airplane to show his disapproval of her attire. "All of it," Keith the Fashion Cop replied when Ms. Ebbert asked what exactly was inappropriate.

(In the picture above, from the San Diego Union-Tribune, which first wrote about Ms. Ebbert's story, she is wearing the same outfit that gave poor delicate Keith the vapors).

Please see my previous post for a summary of the story.

On Friday, Ms. Ebbert appeared, wearing the infamous outfit, on the Today Show. A practically drooling, though sympathetic, Matt Lauer made a big point of having her stand to display her outfit and then sit down again on the couch -- as the camera was focused straight at her.

Oops! Viewers saw London, viewers saw France, viewers saw a flash of underpants before the poor young woman managed to cross her legs while the camera, and Today's millions of viewers, leeringly lingered on her.

Southwest Airlines, which maintains a happy-news "blog" by and for its happy employees on its happy Web site, made gleeful note of that, and piled on this woman, in my opinion.

Read it for yourself. Here is Brian Lusk, Southwest's manager of corporate communication, giddily linking to another smirky blog on the embarrassing MSNCB's Web site.

"You might be interested in the perspective of one of the show's producers, Dan Fleschner," chuckled the Southwest flack, helpfully supplying the links.

Flack Lusk (Sweet sufferin' Jayzus, the name becomes "LUST" if you change that K to a T!) is smirking because Today's cameras lingered on the woman's legs as she sat down on the couch -- thus proving that the shocking hussy deserved to be kicked off an airplane. [I have sat on that couch, by the way. It ain't comfortable even in a men's suit.]

In turn, MSNBC's Fleschner (on TV talk and morning shows, "producer" is usually defined as the personage who makes all those phone calls to line up people to come on the show) himself is all aflutter.

"She flashed our national audience," he reported breathlessly on Friday. "As we learned this morning, that skirt was indeed really short." Helpfully, MSNBC provided the video link to the Today Show segment to further embarrass Ms. Ebbert. (And yes, he used the word "indeed." In 2007.)

Hey, flash this, as Fleschner would have been told on my old block -- before the young woman's big brother pushed him down some steps prior to (indeed) resuming the conversation.

And hey, grow up, Southwest Airlines. And put a harness on Keith the Fashion Cop before he strikes again. And trust me, he will. Who died and appointed this Keith the arbiter of what you or I or our daughters or sons can wear? Have you seen the way some slobs dress on planes?

By the way, on an airplane Ms. Ebbert would not have been taking a seat on a couch on a stage with a camera focused full-body on her, as was the case on the Today Show. And also, a camera-shot is called by a director in a control room. It isn't accidental, and the problem presented in this instance occurs routinely on television talk shows, and is anticipated by directors.

In this case, my hunch is, the camera shot was deliberate. If they had tried the same stunt with a rich movie actress flogging a movie there would be hell to pay at 30 Rock.

Hey Today Show: Stop taking pictures up womens' skirts and posting them on skeezy! They're trying to pass a law against that kind of thing in New York City, by the way.

This piling-on, this sniggering virtual assault, on a 23-year-old woman who did nothing wrong except try to board a plane without being harassed is odious.

I am sure Ms. Ebbert can take care of herself (plus I did notice that she was accompanied by both her mother and a lawyer on the Today Show). But being publicly ambushed by an airline and a television network Web site has to be troublesome. Imagine the cretins who are already e-mailing her and finding her phone number.

(You think I'm kidding? Just scroll through some of the nasty comments from the mouth-breathers on the MSNBC blog that Southwest is so eager to refer its customers to).

A sample: "... so what if a trash young girl and her mom's feelings were hurt, so what???"

MSNBC and Southwest Airlines are okay with calling someone "trash?"

Southwest Airlines should be ashamed of itself. An apology to the customer is the required response, not smirky ridicule.

And Lusk the Flack should be frog-walked out front to make a separate personal apology to Ms. Ebbert -- and to Southwest's other customers. Especially the female customers, who know damn well what this is all about.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Keith Explains It All For You

At right is Kyla Ebbert, who was accosted and lectured, by a Southwest Airlines "customer service" attendant named Keith, for being inappropriately dressed for a flight. Here's the outfit she was busted for on a flight boarding in San Diego for Tucson. Photo by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Not being excessively well-informed on the nuances of fashion (when that big fat 47-pound fashion magazine arrives in my Sunday paper, it immediately goes plop unread into the recycling, along with the startlingly unfunny Funny Pages), I'm always amazed by the world of fashion and the self-important dweebs who populate it.

Just yesterday, I was walking through Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, early for an appointment and looking forward to sitting on a bench in the sun to flip through my free copy of the New York Post. They're now handing that poor sad paper out free on the street corners even by lunchtime, I might add. Used to be before 4 p.m. you'd have to pay a quarter.

Anyway, there were no places to sit. The damned Fashion Week festival was upon us again, like flu season, and the open-lawn beauty of Bryant Park was obliterated by those big white tents set up for the fall fashion shows. All over Bryant Park, which usually draws a pleasant crowd of regular people, were those invincibly smug nitwits from the fabulous fashion world, bustling here and there, air-kissing like the world was ending, while the rest of us, unable to find a bench to read the damned New York Post, wished only that they'd go back with their precious passes and tote bags to their one-bedroom apartmments in Park Slope whence they came.

I did see one young woman from the industry who had on a tight tee-shirt that had these words: "Please Don't Feed the Models." That was worth the trip, since I had never heard the wisecrack before, but my wife informed when I recounted this at breakfast this morning that "Please Don't Feed the Models" is an old Fashion Week tee-shirt gag. "It's sooooo 2005," she said while hand-feeding Cream of Wheat to our African gray parrot.

But I digress.

Here is the column, by Gerry Braun in the San Diego Union-Tribune, about the snippy Southwest Airlines busybody who is enforcing his own dress codes.
(Astonishingly, Southwest also appears to be defending the clearly indefensible.)

This occurred in San Diego, on a flight to Tucson, my adopted second city. Nobody in beautiful, laid-back Tucson enforces fashion codes, by the way. That would explain why I happen to own three cowboy hats.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Airline Problems: An Angry God; The Goats Are Smote

Cute little goat: The greatest sacrifice?

Frustrated by a recurring technical problem that mechanics couldn't fix on its Boeing 757 aircraft, Nepal Airlines sacrificed two goats "so that all would be well with its aircraft," according to the Kantipur Daily, Nepal's main newspaper.

The airplane kept having flight problems "despite its engineering department's untiring efforts," the newspaper reported.

Finally, the airline's engineering chief, PSB Kansakar, "found the root cause of the problem in his dream last night: God was angry, as the corporation had not appeased him by sacrificing goats."

According to the newspaper, the goats were slaughtered, I mean sacrificed, Sunday afternoon at the Nepal Airlines hanger at Tribhuvan International Airport. Top executives of the airlines "were present to offer worship and goat blood to the deity," the newspaper said.

Though the unfortunate goats joined the Choir Invisible in the effort, the problem was not resolved by Sunday night, when a departing flight had to return to the airport with the same technical problems.

A photographer for Kantipur Publications was arrested and later fined "after taking photos of the sacrifice," the newspaper reported.

Ok, ok, let's get it out of our system, shall we. Don't Let the Airlines Get Your Goat ... Goat F--- in Nepal ... Airline Kills 2 Kids ...


Brazil's Skies: 'Unreliable, Unsafe and Inefficient'

Brazil's skies are "unreliable, unsafe and inefficient," according to a new report by the International Air Transport Association, which represents most of the world's airlines.

See my Brazil blog.